Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley battled for the Class 3A Southern League regular-season football title last week.
But Saturday’s rematch means so much more to both teams.
Moapa Valley (5-4) will host Virgin Valley (7-2) in a 3A state quarterfinal at 1 p.m. Saturday, when the latest chapter in one of the state’s most historic rivalries will be written.
“It seems like it always comes down to us and Virgin. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said. “Both sides know what it means, and both programs get up for each other.”
The Pirates earned the right to host the playoff opener with a 7-6 win at Virgin Valley last week. The winner of Saturday’s game will host Northern Nevada’s lowest remaining seed in the state semifinals on Nov. 13.
Because there are only three teams in the 3A Southern League and Boulder City went 0-2 in league play, both teams entered last week’s game knowing of the ensuing faceoff in the playoffs.
Both coaches admitted the week-before preview led to both offenses’ semi-conservative approach.
“It’s got to a little bit,” Virgin Valley coach Kirk Hafen said. “You don’t want to show everything you have. Both teams were kind of feeling each other out.”
“We kept pretty conservative,” he said. “We did some good things, we moved the ball. I was a little concerned we didn’t finish a bunch of our drives. If we’re going to beat them again, we’ve got to finish off the drives.”
Moapa Valley outgained Virgin Valley 319-127 in total yards, but missed two field goals. The Pirates took the lead for good on quarterback Kelan Weiss’ 1-yard touchdown run four seconds before halftime.
“There’s no such thing as an ugly win. We’ll take (the home game),” Lewis said. “At the same time, I think our kids left feeling slightly disappointed that we made a few mistakes in the red zone. That will definitely be key again.”
Moapa Valley is on a mission to win its third 3A title in four years after losing 27-0 to Truckee in the state final last year.
The Pirates and Bulldogs haven’t met in the playoffs since the 2007 title game, which Moapa Valley won, 35-14. The Pirates also have won the last three regular-season meetings.
“If we can get through this game and get into the state (semifinals), it’ll be exciting,” Lewis said. “Both towns will be out for it, and it should be a lot of fun.”
Moapa Valley will rely on a balanced rushing attack. The Pirates have run for 21 touchdowns this season, but no single player has more than four.
The Pirates graduated their entire starting offensive line from last season, but Lewis said the new group is made up of quick learners. The unit has paved the way for a stable of running backs, led by senior Zach Waite (422 yards, three TDs).
“They’ve come a long way,” Lewis said of his offensive linemen. “We’ve had some growing pains, but as far as their growth, it’s great as a coach to see.”
Virgin Valley will counter with a balanced ground game of its own. The Bulldogs also have 21 rushing TDs on the season, but no one player with more than five.
“I think we’ll be on the ground a lot,” Hafen said. “We’ll see if we can move the ball. If not, we’re going to have to spread it out.”
Virgin Valley junior quarterback Humberto Urias has completed 50.4 percent of his passes for 1,079 yards and 14 TDs with only four interceptions, and is the team’s leading rusher with 394 yards.
Hafen said his seniors are focused on snapping the four-game losing streak to the Pirates that dates to the 2007 state title game.
“This is a mental aspect we’re trying to get over,” he said.
Like Lewis, Hafen felt the postseason opener will have an added intensity given how well the teams know each other and the history of the rivalry.
“The towns will close up,” Hafen said. “We’ve kind of known all along this is the way it would end up. It’s exciting. I don’t know how many times in the past it’s come down to these two teams.”