SMALL SCHOOLS: Pirates earn trip back to 3A final

After watching his team play one of its more complete games of the season, Moapa Valley football coach Brent Lewis might still be handing out game balls.

There would be plenty to go around.

Conner Mortensen rushed for a season-high 235 yards and two touchdowns, Lance Hilton passed for 71 yards and a TD in place of injured starter Dakota Watters, and the Pirates defense excelled in a 19-6 home win over Lowry on Saturday in the Class 3A state semifinals.

“It feels great. We were all one unit,” Mortensen said. “That’s what we’ve been looking for, and we finally got it.”

Moapa Valley (10-2) eliminated Lowry (9-3) in the semifinals for the second straight season. The Pirates advanced to their sixth consecutive 3A title game and will meet Truckee (11-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Damonte Ranch in Reno.

“It really speaks to the heart not only of our kids, but our program,” Lewis said. “It’s all the time and effort that our coaches put in, and to have this level of consistency year after year is special. We really feed off it.”

Hilton played admirably in place of Watters, who suffered a thigh contusion in last week’s win over Virgin Valley. The sophomore was intercepted on his first pass, but settled down to finish 7-for-10.

Hilton threw an 8-yard TD pass to Jacob Rebman with 3:27 left in the first half to give Moapa Valley a 6-0 lead.

“It was a big opportunity for a sophomore coming in there,” Lewis said. “He had a shaky start, threw the pick early, but he rebounded and kept us steady.”

Mortensen scored on runs of 57 and 65 yards, the first a sprint down the left sideline to give Moapa Valley a 13-0 lead early in the third quarter.

Lowry’s Jace Billingsley burst up the middle for a 20-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter to bring Lowry within 13-6. But Mortensen answered with his second TD run on the next play from scrimmage to give the Pirates a 19-6 lead with 11:43 remaining.

Mortensen gained 201 of his 235 rushing yards after halftime.

“Hats off to my line. They did great,” he said. “Our line was opening everything up, and I just ran.”

Shane Terril caught three passes for 20 yards for Moapa Valley, which held Billingsley to 96 yards on 19 carries. Billingsley entered averaging 204.6 rushing yards per game.

“That was a heck of an effort,” Lewis said of his defense. “We studied film. We felt like we knew what they were going to run, and that was key.”

Moapa Valley has allowed a total of 18 points in its two playoff victories.

“Our defense has been solid, our backbone,” Lewis said. “I think our offense has got to continue to rebound. We’ve had kind of a downhill stretch these last two weeks.”

Moapa Valley will play Truckee in the state final for the fourth straight season, with the Pirates looking for their first title since 2008.

“It’s kind of been our annual rivalry,” Lewis said. “We’re hoping to go up and play well and try to even the score.”


Pershing County 44, The Meadows 22 —  At Lovelock, Marcus Tippens rushed for 301 yards and six touchdowns to help Pershing County top The Meadows and move into the state title game.

Tippens had TD runs of 5, 24, 2, 60, 64 and 9 yards for Pershing County, which had 613 rushing yards.

Pershing County (10-1) plays White Pine for the 2A championship at 3 p.m. Saturday at Damonte Ranch.

Jacob Flores added 178 yards for Pershing County, which led 22-0 at the half.

Garrett Gosse passed for 341 yards and three scores to lead The Meadows (8-3). He had a 12-yard TD pass to Max Newman and a 4-yard scoring pass to Taylor Beck in the third quarter as The Meadows cut the lead to 22-16.

But Tippens scored three fourth-quarter TDs to push the lead to 44-16 before Gosse hit Richard Lee with a 9-yard TD pass to close the scoring.

Newman had 11 catches for 105 yards.


Pahranagat Valley 70, Coleville 14 — At Alamo, Tyler Higbee rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns, and caught two passes for 61 yards and a score as the Panthers eliminated the Wolves.

Pahranagat Valley (11-0) advanced to meet Carlin in the state final at noon Saturday. Carlin moved to the final with a 44-30 home win over Spring Mountain.

Higbee scored on runs of 1, 25 and 5 yards, and hauled in a 42-yard TD pass from Austin Poulsen.

Poulsen completed 15 of 20 passes for 246 yards and three TDs. He found Kade Wadsworth six times for 113 yards, including TDs of 10 and 28.

Poulsen ran for 84 yards and two TDs, and Chase Hansen ran for 76 yards for the Panthers.