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3A STATE: Moapa Valley chases third consecutive championship

Moapa Valley hasn’t won three consecutive state football championships since the 1960s.

That could change Saturday, when the Pirates play for a third straight Class 3A state title against Truckee (Calif.) at 3 p.m. at Damonte Ranch High in Reno.

The chance to make history is not lost on Moapa Valley’s senior class.

“It’d be huge for our town,” senior linebacker/fullback Jake Pearce said. “It’d be one of the biggest things for me to accomplish. It’d be great to bring to Moapa and for the community.”

The Pirates (7-3) routed Truckee (11-0) in last year’s title game, 35-16.

But the Wolverines could be better this season, having pitched four shutouts and outscored opponents 525-60. Truckee averages more than 203 yards rushing per game, but no one averages more than 63.

“From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t see a lot of weaknesses,” Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said. “They’re athletic all over the field.

“There’s nothing you can key on; there’s no simple thing they do. Everything is well executed. They get the ball in five or six guys’ hands, and they’re all threats.”

Which is why Pearce said his defense’s top priority is to stay disciplined.

“When they spread it out like that, everybody has their own responsibilities,” he said. “We can’t be overpursuing the sweep; we’ve got to stay to our responsibilities.”

Moapa Valley hasn’t had trouble scoring, either.

The Pirates rallied from a 1-3 start to win their next six games, including a 45-13 victory at 4A Sunrise Region semifinalist Foothill.

“The way we see it is, you don’t get any better unless you play good competition,” Pearce said. “We’ve played good teams.”

Lewis said the biggest key in the turnaround was a young offensive line beginning to mesh after returning only one starter, center Cameron Lim, from last season.

“We learned from those games,” Lewis said of the 1-3 start. “We just kept preaching to our kids that where we started wasn’t where we were going to end up.”

Moapa Valley’s offense is keyed by senior Matt Newton, who leads the Pirates in rushing (672 yards, nine touchdowns) and receiving (37 receptions, 996 yards, 12 TDs). He’s also intercepted five passes while playing safety.

“We’ve got athletes, too,” Lewis said. “We hope to be as physical or more physical than they are. Hopefully, we can disrupt their flow a little bit.”

Pearce, the 3A state co-Defensive Player of the Year last season, has long desired to cap his high school career with a state title.

“That’s what I’ve worked for my whole life since I was a little kid going to our varsity games and watching,” he said. “Going out on top, that’s the greatest thing you could ask for.”

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