Boulder City flag football coach Chris Morelli joked that the anxiety of completing an unbeaten season was starting to take a toll on his sleep.
The third-year coach can rest easily. His defensive-minded Eagles pushed their final record to 22-0 with a 7-6 victory over Centennial to win the Clark County School District championship Tuesday at Del Sol.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Morelli said. “It’s been that black cloud, hanging over our head for the last five games. The girls have responded well, but you could see that anxiety in them.
“We knew this was going to be a defensive battle coming in. They’re the most athletic team we’ve played, without a doubt. Across the board, they’re just athletes. Our girls were up for a challenge and it showed.”
Boulder City relied heavily on defense to finish a goal it had established after losing to Green Valley last season in the CCSD semifinals.
The Eagles, who led 7-0 at halftime, gave up a touchdown — their first in the last four games — by Centennial’s Lauren Ritter on a 5-yard run to make it 7-6 with 11:05 left in the second half.
But junior Paige Buettner, a 5-foot-6-inch, 120-pound defensive end, then made the play of the game, pulling the flag of quarterback Kiana Sai at the 1-yard line to foil the Bulldogs’ extra-point attempt.
“I locked on the ball and watched it the whole time,” Buettner said. “And I don’t know if I could ever run that fast again, but I went for it. I wasn’t going to let it happen. There was no way it was going to happen.”
Centennial coach John Roberts said: “It was a pass out to the flats and (Sai) booted out. I thought she was in. We can’t dive, so it’s kind of hard when you’re that close. It looked like she was in to me, but I’d have to look at film.”
Buettner also made a crucial sack with 1:11 left to halt the momentum on Centennial’s final drive. The Bulldogs were forced into a second-and-26 at the 46-yard line.
The Bulldogs (19-3) inched closer with an 18-yard completion, and had one more opportunity on fourth-and-8 at the 28. But Boulder City’s Jeanne Carmell broke up the final pass attempt to seal the win with 50 seconds left.
“We knew no matter what, if anything happened (today) — broken nose, broken finger — just get it fixed and get back on the field,” Carmell said. “That’s how we played in this game.
“I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. It’s amazing. I’m, like, speechless.”
Buettner had a 1-yard TD run for the Eagles. She also made a team-high seven tackles, including four sacks.
“She’s our hidden gem,” Morelli said. “After every game, the first thing we hear from the other players is, ‘Oh my gosh. We can’t stop her. She’s just relentless.’ It’s great to hear that. She just goes. She’s like the Energizer bunny.”
Carmell was 9 of 19 passing for 107 yards, and Kinsey Smyth had 53 yards rushing on eight carries for the Eagles.
“It’s a very long season and these girls put in a lot of effort,” Roberts said. “Our defense, I can’t ask for anything more.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.