Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
The Las Vegas High football team will have a different look this fall.
When the traditional power Wildcats open the season Friday at Desert Oasis, they’ll do so with a different starting quarterback and running back for the first time in three seasons. Gone are signal caller Hasaan Henderson and backfield mate Farrell Victor — players who led Las Vegas to a 28-6 record the past three seasons and accounted for nearly all of its significant offense.
But the Wildcats’ cupboard is far from empty.
Las Vegas coach James Thurman is optimistic his offense won’t miss a beat with sophomore quarterback Trevor Swenson (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) and running back Andrew Moreland leading the way.
“Our kids expect to win. Our kids have a tradition to uphold at Las Vegas, and winning is part of that,” Thurman said. “Our kids are going to compete. Our kids are going to bust their tail. There is no excuse in the book we will use. We are going to compete for a championship.”
Las Vegas returns five offensive and defensive starters from last year’s team that reached the Sunrise Regional semifinals. That figure doesn’t include one of the Wildcats’ top weapons in kicker Jay Mattox.
Mattox, who is part of the Sun’s Preseason All-City team, is rated one of the top 12 kickers nationally for the class of 2013 by Chris Sailer Kicking and has connected on 16 of 20 fields goals over the past two years. More importantly for Thurman, 70 percent of his kickoffs last year went for a touchback.
“Just look at the stats,” Thurman said. “Teams that start from the 20 only score 20 percent of the time.”
Las Vegas averaged 38.8 points per game last year. And not everyone from that attack graduated.
Wide receivers Vince Castro, who caught 29 passes for 348 yards last year, and Josh Mayfield both return to give the Wildcats’ first-time varsity quarterback some much-needed help. Mayfield had 300 yards receiving last year.
“We don’t replace those kids (Henderson and Victor). Obviously, they were special kids,” Thurman said. “We are going to spread the ball out more. We are going to spread the ball around and make (the opposition) cover everyone and not concentrate on stopping one person.
“I’m not worried about our skilled kids. The skilled kids can still play. I'm not worried about handing off the ball or throwing the ball.”
Nose guard Lahmad Evans returns to anchor the Las Vegas defense. He’ll be joined by three returning starters at linebacker and Castro in the secondary.
Combine it all together and Las Vegas should be in the mix to compete for the Northeast League crown. Last year, the Wildcats were undefeated heading into their regular season finale against Canyon Springs but lost in overtime to finish in second place.