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3A FLAG FOOTBALL: Cheyenne finishes the job to win first state title

Cheyenne flag football coach Anthony Johnson wanted the world, or at least his Facebook followers, to know as soon as possible the outcome of the team’s game Wednesday.

After defeating the Virgin Valley Bulldogs 7-0 at Cimarron-Memorial High School to win his first Class 3A state title, Johnson had his phone in hand as he took to Facebook Live to make sure the outcome was well known.

“State champs baby! We’re state champs!” he told his followers watching.

It was a long road to the state title game for Cheyenne (12-5), which lost by one point to Boulder City in the Southern Nevada championship game last season. The emotion was clear on the face of Johnson and every player on Cheyenne.

“It was really tough to get so close and come up short last year,” Johnson said. “So I made it a goal this year to have that same drive, get back to where we were and finish the job this time.”

The theme to the Desert Shields’ season was “Unfinished Business” and it was the defense, completing a shutout against a team which had scored 78 points in its last two games, that finished the job.

“Defense wins championships, that’s all there is to say about that,” Johnson said. “Offense can win as many games as you want, but like I tell my girls, if nobody scores on you then nobody can beat you.”

The Bulldogs threatened offensively on their opening drive of the game, marching in to a goal-to-go situation. But E’moni Albert picked off a pass from Kallie Graves near the goal line to keep Virgin Valley (18-4) off the scoreboard. The Bulldogs did not get into scoring position again.

“It was a game changer early on,” Johnson said. “It was clutch and it was right on time. We needed it and we went right down the field and scored.”

The ensuing possession included the game’s only score as Cheyenne freshman quarterback E’leseana Patterson led her team down to the 1-yard line, and senior Brianna Torres powered her way into the end zone for the only points the Desert Shields would need.

The winds played a major factor in the game, as neither team was able to throw the ball very effectively.

Cheyenne relied heavily on senior running back Angela Hammond, who finished with 14 carries for 115 yards. Patterson accumulated 62 yards on seven carries and completed 6 of 13 passes for 49 yards.

“The wind took out a lot of our plays today,” Johnson said. “We have runners though, and girls who can go. You can’t control mother nature so you just have to call it as you see it.”

Graves was just 4-for-12 passing for 45 yards and an interception in the harsh wind.

Virgin Valley had one last chance to tie the game with less than two minutes to play, but a sack from Cheyenne junior Kiantera Neal helped stop the drive.

“Pressure busts pipes,” Johnson said. “We had to keep sending pressure, and it got home for us in the end.”

Contact reporter Bill Slane at bslane@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4559. Follow @bill_slane on Twitter.

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