Two years ago, Jared Jensen led Pershing County back from a 12-point halftime deficit to an improbable state championship. Jensen was just a sophomore at the time and remembers thinking there were more titles games in his and the Mustangs' future.
He was right. Sort of.
Favored Pershing County returned to last year's 2A championship and defended its title. But a freak health scare forced Jensen to watch from the sideline in his letterman's jacket.
Now a senior, Jensen is taking nothing for granted. The Mustangs go for a third straight title today in the Division III state final against an old foe.
"I realized how much I missed and how little time I had to play football," said Jensen, who underwent surgery for a growth in his stomach late last season after doctors originally thought it was a simple case of appendicitis. "It's been a quick year. It's gone by so fast. But it's been everything I wanted for a senior year. Now, we just have to finish it right."
The Mustangs face Mountain View Christian at 3 p.m. today at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. It was against the Saints in 2010 that Pershing County capped its run as the North's No. 4 seed with the come-from-behind win and the program's first championship since 2004.
"We're here again but you can't ever take that for granted," Pershing County coach Dave McLean said. "Every season is unique in its own way, whether you're successful or not. This year was no different."
The Mustangs, winners of 10 in a row after a season-opening loss, want to end the year in what's become typical style: With another championship.
"We would be the first Mustangs ever to win three state championships in a row," Jensen said. "We would be remembered forever."
Jensen is one of three players to see significant playing time in each of the past three seasons. The others are quarterback Seth Montes and lineman Sitini Kavauka.
But Jensen likely won't have to carry quite the workload he did the last time Pershing County and Mountain View met. Jensen carried the ball 35 times, including 21 in the second half, two years ago.
The Mustangs have junior Jacob Flores to help this year. Flores leads the Mustangs with 160 rushing yards per game and 24 touchdowns.
"From the beginning we felt like we could get back to the state championship," said Flores, whose speed around the edge perfectly balances Jensen's bruising style between the tackles. "But no one put pressure on us to do it. It's been fun."