Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 | 8:05 a.m.
There are 100 football players in the Pahrump Valley High football program. For first-year coach Joe Clayton, that means he’s already had a successful season.
In the past four years, when Pahrump has managed just two victories, the Trojans’ lack of numbers forced coaches to use younger players on the varsity team just so they could field a team on Friday nights. Last year, Pahrump didn’t have a freshman team.
“This is the most numbers we have had in several years,” Clayton said. “We were forced to play so many kids on the varsity that just weren’t ready to go.”
Clayton’s goal is the keep all of the sophomores on the junior varsity team and let them develop together. The same with the ninth graders on the freshmen team.
“With us being a smaller program, we really have to get in the kids’ heads that they are going to be the better team on the field,” Clayton said. “That starts on the lower levels.”
Clayton has been heavily involved in the Pahrump football scene for more than a decade, starting the town’s first Pop Warner youth team and coaching at the middle school before joining the high school staff. He’s watched as they struggled to a 2-36 record over the past four years, but knows this year could be different because of realignment.
Instead of having to face Bishop Gorman, Desert Oasis and Durango for a playoff spot, the Trojans are part of the new Division I-A and full of optimism they will be playing in the postseason. Four of the six teams in their Sunset Region makes the playoffs.
“We try to stay positive in everything we do,” Clayton said. “We tell the kids we are going to the playoffs, we just don’t know what seed yet.”
Junior quarterback A.J. Segura and senior running back Cody Keasling return to anchor the offense. Segura had the game-winning touchdown last year against Western for Pahrump’s lone victory of the season to snap a 30-game losing streak. Keasling made the all-league team in 2011.
Defensively, Pahrump will be led by junior linebacker Scotty Maughn, senior safety Dustin Dillon and senior defensive linemen Jake Paus.
Pahrump will be tested immediately when they host state-favorite Moapa Valley Friday night.
“If we can beat No. 7 and No. 11, we’ll have a chance against those guys,” Clayton said about defending Moapa Valley’s dynamic duo on Conner Mortensen and Sean McConnell, respectively.