OVERTON — Elko’s football team seemed to be on the verge of scoring several times on Saturday. Each time, Moapa Valley was able to turn the Indians away.
The Pirates limited Elko to 21 rushing yards and forced four turnovers in a 17-0 home win in the Division I-A state semifinals.
Moapa Valley (11-1) will try to win its second straight state title when it meets Churchill County (11-1) in the state final at noon on Nov. 21 at Reno High.
“It shows how much we want it and our resilience and grit,” Moapa Valley senior R.J. Hubert said. “And just that we work as a team, and we’re a family and we’ve got each others’ backs.”
The Indians trailed 17-0 at the end of the third quarter, but very nearly got on the board on the first play of the fourth when quarterback Alex Puentes hit Kyrin Allen with a deep pass down the right sideline.
Allen was able to shake one defender, and he headed toward the end zone. Free safety Hubert caught up with him and began trying to strip the ball as Allen fought to get to the goal line.
Eventually Jay Mortensen caught up as well, and Allen lost the ball with Moapa Valley (11-1) recovering in the end zone with 11:41 to play.
“He had the ball tucked, and I was just trying to strip it,” Hubert said. “And he had his focus on me, and I think one of our linebackers from the other side came and knocked the ball loose. And we recovered it in the end zone. We got lucky.”
Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said he wasn’t sure Allen didn’t cross the goal line before the fumble.
“I thought he was in, personally, but I don’t have the angle,” Lewis said. “You need luck if you’re going to win a state championship, so we’ll take it. We’re not going to throw that one back.”
Elko (8-3) had two other red-zone opportunities, but came away with nothing. The Indians faced third-and-3 from the Moapa Valley 7 late in the second quarter, and shifted to a Wildcat formation with receiver Nick Smiley taking the snap. He gained 2 yards on the first play, but was unable to handle a low snap on fourth-and-1, and Moapa Valley’s Dalyn Leavitt recovered the fumble at the 10.
The Indians got to the Moapa Valley 10 on their first possession of the second half, but a false start helped stall things, and Trystin Deal got his fingertips on a 32-yard field goal attempt by Smiley to keep Elko off the board.
“We just held strong,” said two-way Moapa Valley senior lineman Garrett Rose, who had two tackles for loss. “We did what we were taught and stayed to the basics.”
Moapa Valley certainly didn’t do anything fancy on offense, especially in the second half. The Pirates completed just two passes after halftime, but finished with 272 rushing yards, 154 of which came in the second half.
“We just pounded right down their throats,” Rose said. “We just did what we needed to do and capitalized when we needed to.”
Moapa Valley’s first TD came through the air when Nate Cox hit Deal with a 4-yard TD pass with 11:54 to go in the second quarter.
Hubert added a 13-yard TD run with 1:00 to go in the half for a 14-0 halftime advantage.
Mortensen kicked a 25-yard field goal on the team’s first possession of the second half to close out the scoring.
“It was a tough win,” Hubert said. “We scratched and clawed for every inch we could get.”
Deal led the rushing attack with 104 yards on 13 carries. Sterling Simmons added 84 yards on 13 carries, and Hubert had 76 yards on 10 attempts.
“I thought we dominated the line of scrimmage,” Lewis said. “That was key. As long as we were getting 5, 6 yards a time, there really was no need to take chances and put it in the air.”