Canyon Springs is 7-1, undefeated in the Northeast Division and ranked third among the area’s Class 4A football teams.
But the Pioneers still feel like underdogs for today’s 6 p.m. home game against two-time defending state champion Las Vegas (6-3, 4-1). The winner of tonight’s game will have the Northeast’s top seed in the Sunrise Region playoffs, which begin next week.
"They’re like the best team in Vegas to me," Canyon Springs quarterback Devonte Christopher said. "They’re 3-0 against us, and we’re 0-3, so they’ve got the upper hand."
Not many teams have had the upper hand against the Pioneers this season. Canyon Springs is just two missed extra points away from being unbeaten. The Pioneers’ lone loss was a 27-26 defeat at Cimarron-Memorial on Sept. 7.
Since that time, Canyon Springs has outscored opponents 289-129, and the Pioneers average 44.6 points.
"They are, bar none, the best offensive team in town," Las Vegas coach Chris Faircloth said. "Nobody else in this town is even remotely close to them."
Christopher has been the star with the help of a platoon of big-play receivers. The senior has passed for an area-best 2,279 yards and 32 TDs and been intercepted five times. He played only the first half last week against Valley, passing for 401 yards and six TDs.
Faircloth said his team must make a choice: either bring more pressure and leave fewer defenders in pass coverage or have more players in coverage and give Christopher more time to throw.
"He makes you pay either way," Faircloth said. "He just brings so much to the table."
The second-best offensive player in town might be Canyon Springs receiver Juron Criner. He has caught 41 passes for 1,128 yards and 21 touchdowns.
"He’s absolutely scary when he catches the ball," Faircloth said. "He’s a big bulk of their offense, and he always seems to get open. He’s tough."
Canyon Springs coach Matt Jenkins concedes his team is difficult to stop on offense.
"I’m glad I don’t play us, at least offensively," Jenkins joked. "I’d play my defense."
But the coach expects a difficult time moving the ball against the Wildcats, who held the Pioneers to 28 points in two meetings last season.
"Defensively, they’re the same as they always are," Jenkins said. "They’re disciplined, they’re athletic, they’re fast to the football.
"They just play hard. They’re no different from any other Vegas team."Preps Central
TODAY’S GAMES All times 6 p.m., unless noted • Coronado at Green Valley • Del Sol at Liberty • Basic at Silverado • Las Vegas at Canyon Springs • Eldorado at Rancho • Bonanza at Durango • Bishop Gorman at Sierra Vista • Western at Spring Valley • Shadow Ridge at Centennial • Mojave at Cheyenne • Cimarron-Memorial at Palo Verde • Arbor View at Legacy • Chaparral at Clark • Virgin • Valley at Moapa Valley, 7 p.m. • Pahranagat Valley at Laughlin, 7 p.m. Spring Mountain at Beatty, 7 p.m. • Pahrump Valley at Boulder City, 7 p.m. • The Meadows at Needles (Calif.), 7 p.m. • Valley at Desert Pines, 7:30 p.m. KEY FOOTBALL GAMES Western (6-1, 4-0 Southwest) at Spring Valley (7-2, 4-1) — A key game for seeding in the Southwest Division. The Warriors need a win to keep their league championship hopes alive heading into next week’s game with top-ranked Bishop Gorman. Mojave (8-0, 5-0 Northwest) at Cheyenne (5-2, 4-1) — The Rattlers used a big-play offense last week, with six scoring plays of 20 or more yards, in a 40-28 win over Cimarron-Memorial. Things might be tougher this week against a stout Cheyenne defense that has allowed 43 points in the last six games. Cimarron-Memorial (6-2, 4-1 Northwest) at Palo Verde (8-0, 5-0) — The second-ranked Panthers have been on a roll, outscoring opponents 122-16 in the last three weeks. But Palo Verde hasn’t faced a running back like Cimarron’s Stephen Nixon, who has rushed for 877 yards in the last four games. Valley (2-6, 2-3 Northeast) at Desert Pines (4-5, 3-2) — A win gives the Vikings the final playoff berth from the Northeast Division. A loss means Chaparral advances on tiebreakers. Virgin Valley (8-1, 3-0 3A Southern League) at Moapa Valley (6-2, 3-0) — A rematch of last year’s Class 3A state title game features a pair of longtime rivals. Virgin Valley beat the Pirates 10-7 for the state title last year, but Moapa Valley beat the Bulldogs 15-14 in the regular-season matchup. DAMON SEITERS / REVIEW-JOURNAL