Pioneers, Wildcats square off

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."

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