- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The coach of a rural Nevada high school eight-man football team that won a record 104 straight games and eight consecutive state championships is accused of stealing and misappropriating $122,000 in public funds.

Ken Higbee’s defense attorney, Bret Whipple, said Wednesday that no money went into Higbee’s pocket, and the charges against him appear to result from his efforts to use all available resources to build a program benefiting children in a small town.

“In a worst-case scenario it looks like equipment destined for a state girls’ school ended up at the county high school football program,” Whipple said. “The allegation is that it was without authorization. Nobody enriched anybody.”

Higbee faces 225 misdemeanor and felony offenses including theft, forgery, official misconduct and misappropriation of funds, according to an April 10 criminal complaint reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal (https://bit.ly/2oP9Q9O ).

Higbee was issued a summons to appear in Meadow Valley Justice Court in Pioche for a preliminary hearing of evidence, Whipple said, and remained free after submitting a written plea of not guilty.

A court official said a judge is expected on Tuesday to set a date for the hearing.

Higbee is principal at a high school run by the state at a youthful offenders facility in Caliente, a town of about 1,000 residents 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

He coaches at Pahranagat Valley High School in nearby Alamo, a smaller town in Lincoln County, a mining, ranching and railroad area with a total population of about 5,000 people.

From 2008 to last November, the Pahranagat Valley Panthers went undefeated, compiling what officials called the longest winning streak in eight-man football history before losing to a Las Vegas school in the Nevada division 1A title game.

Documents say that between January 2012 and December 2015, Higbee used embezzled funds to buy sports equipment, clothing and shoes, but also tools, welding supplies, household items and electronics. Some items were allegedly for Higbee’s personal use.

Pahranagat Valley principal Mike Strong told the Review-Journal that Higbee has been on paid administrative leave as football coach since last year, and that the Lincoln County School District will decide his job status.

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