After watching his offense struggle in the first half, Moapa Valley football coach Brent Lewis figured Matt Newton might have a big play up his sleeve in the third quarter.
It turned out Newton had three.
The senior receiver caught two touchdown passes and threw for another in the third quarter to spark Moapa Valley to a 43-0 home win over Fernley in a Class 3A state semifinal Saturday.
“He’s tough to cover for four quarters,” Lewis said of Newton. “They did a pretty good job on him in the first two quarters, but eventually he wears guys down. You’ve got to run 30, 40 yards to cover him, and he just runs by people.”
Moapa Valley (7-3) will play Truckee (11-0) in the 3A state title game at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno.
The Pirates will be gunning for their third consecutive state crown.
Newton caught five passes for 126 yards, including TD receptions of 40 and 37 yards from Kelan Weiss. Newton also took a lateral from Weiss before hitting Dillon Gordon with a 33-yard scoring strike that came between his two TD catches.
Newton, who also had an interception while playing safety, credited the Pirates’ defense for the win.
Moapa Valley held Fernley (7-4), which entered Saturday’s matchup averaging 32 points per game, to 54 yards of offense. Four players had one sack each for the Pirates, who recorded a safety and stuffed 14 Fernley plays for loss or no gain.
“That’s big,” Newton said. “We had people like Alex Huerta and Jake Pearce step up as linebackers. They shut everything down.”
Moapa Valley has shut out its last three opponents.
The Pirates scored 36 points in the second half. Lewis said the Pirates adjusted their offense at halftime because Fernley changed its defense since a 28-27 home win over the Pirates in the season opener.
“They played us man-to-man the first time, so we practiced against man-to-man all week,” Lewis said. “They came out and played everything zone. It threw us off a little bit.
“We adjusted at halftime. What a dominant effort in the second half. A great effort by my kids.”
Weiss completed 9 of 16 passes for 183 yards and three TDs, hooking up with Hayden Cooper on a 10-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter.
Taylor Tucker led the Vaqueros with four receptions for 66 yards.
The Pirates will be playing next week for their first string of three straight state titles since winning 1A crowns from 1966 to 1968. They beat Truckee in last year’s state final, 35-16.
But Truckee has outscored opponents 525-60 this season, including a 102-8 margin in two playoff games.
“We’ll have our hands full,” Lewis said. “They’ve got athletes all over the field. I hope we match up with them. It’s two big play teams; we’ll see who makes the better plays.”
Truckee (Calif.) 35, Boulder City 8 — At Truckee, Calif., the Wolverines held the Eagles to negative-43 rushing yards en route to the easy win.
Ben Bolton passed for 236 yards and three touchdowns to lead Truckee.
Boulder City’s touchdown came on a 69-yard pass from Preston Swasey to Kyle Dimpel.
Truckee took a 21-0 halftime lead on touchdown runs of 15 yards by Jordan Deiro and 10 yards by Jason Weed along with a 29-yard TD pass from Bolton to Vince Shaffer.
Bolton hit Shaffer with 55- and 41-yard TD passes in the second half.
Boulder City (7-5) managed 93 yards of offense.