At first glance, Maxwell’s homecoming game against the visiting Portola Tigers might look, well, like a stereotypical homecoming game.
The Panthers enter Mountain Valley League play sporting a 3-1 record, with their only loss coming against a talented Fall River squad, 35-28. Maxwell has outscored its opponents 132-68.
The Tigers, on the other hand, are winless at 0-4, and have been outscored 130-13 in games against Pershing County of Nevada (46-0), Fall River (49-6), and Hamilton (35-7).
The Tigers won their opening contest against Foresthill 52-12, but forfeited the game after it realized it had played to ineligible players in the game.
As the conventional wisdom goes, you schedule a team you are certain to beat for homecoming, right? That isn’t how the Panthers are looking at this game, head coach Russ Jones said. While Maxwell certainly plans on winning their game against Portola on Friday night, and would appear to be the heavy favorites on paper, Jones said that Portola is still a dangerous team. That is particularly true when star running back and 2015-16 Mountain Valley League Offensive MVP Edgar Cuevas is on the field.
Cuevas, a senior, is a three-year varsity starter. As a sophomore, he ran for 1,107 yards on 176 carries and 11 touchdowns in nine games. As a junior, he ran for an astounding 2,204 yards and 33 touchdowns on 225 carries: A 9.8-yard-per=carry average.
“He’s a game changer, and he averaged something crazy like 270 yards per game last year,” Jones said.
As it turns out, that’s a bit of a hyperbole: Cuevas actually only averaged about 184 yards per game in the 2015-16 season.
In Cuevas’ game against Foresthill this year (the only game for which he has stats recorded), he ran for 251 yards and 4 touchdowns on 10 carries for the Tigers.
Jones mentioned that an interesting storyline for the game is that Cuevas, the reigning Mountain Valley offensive MVP, will be facing off with Maxwell’s own Dylan Jones, who was named the league’s defensive MVP last season for his work at middle linebacker.
This season, Jones is again setting the pace for the Panthers on defense, with 62 total tackles (46 solo) through four games and averaging nearly a tackle more per contest. He also has an interception and has forced a fumble so far this season.
Returning to Russ Jones’ assertion that his team will not be taking this game for granted, Maxwell learned last week that an opponent’s wins and losses don’t necessarily equate to how tough they will play: The Panthers were just able to squeak by a winless Etna team had been outscored 98-31 in its three previous games.
Maxwell’s offense was somewhat limited, however, without their leader in yards rushing, Isaac Magana. Jones said he was hopeful that Magana would be back this week.
“I think we’re going to be fortunate enough to have Isaac back, which opens playbook wide open,” Jones said.
The Maxwell junior varsity game begins at 5 PM, and the varsity game will start at 7:30 PM.