All that Kelan Weiss was seeking was redemption.
The senior quarterback found it, and in the process helped Moapa Valley’s football team reach the Class 3A state title game for the fifth straight year.
Weiss threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter, but led a fourth-quarter surge to help the Pirates rally for a 35-20 home win over Lowry in a state semifinal Saturday in Overton.
“This was the last game on this field for our seniors, so we wanted to step up and make plays,” Weiss said. “This is our fifth year in a row being (in the title game). We didn’t want to be the grade to end it, so we’re glad to be back.”
Moapa Valley (7-4) will meet Truckee (11-0) in the 3A state title game Saturday at Arbor View. The Wolverines advanced with a 55-7 rout of Elko.
Lowry’s Jace Billingsley returned an interception 96 yards for a score to give the Buckaroos (8-4) a 20-14 lead with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
It was the first of two Moapa Valley second-half turnovers in the red zone, as the Pirates drove to the Buckaroos’ 8-yard line on their ensuing possession before losing a fumble.
But on Moapa Valley’s next drive, Weiss engineered a five-play, 76-yard TD drive highlighted by a 51-yard pass to Dakota Watters. Weiss capped the drive with a 14-yard strike to Casen Lewis, who spun past a defender into the end zone before the extra point gave the Pirates a 21-20 lead with 9:29 left.
“I haven’t seen something like that except on ESPN,” Weiss said of Lewis, who also made a diving 20-yard TD catch to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter.
After the go-ahead score, Haydn Waite added an 11-yard TD run and Shane Terril took an interception 32 yards for a score to help the Pirates finish the game with 21 unanswered points.
“We just battled back,” said Lewis, who caught five passes for 104 yards and two TDs. “We had a lot of adversity and a lot of doubters this season, but we’re going back to state. It feels amazing.”
Weiss completed 14 of 27 passes for 288 yards and two TDs. Teammate Zach Waite carried 17 times for 48 yards, including a 16-yard TD in the first quarter.
Lewis, Terril and Hayden Cooper each had interceptions and Haydn Waite recovered a fumble to lead Moapa Valley’s defense.
“The fourth quarter was ours,” Pirates coach Brent Lewis said. “We knew they were based on running. We shut that down and forced them to do things they weren’t used to doing. It gave our kids an opportunity to read and attack.”
Now the Pirates turn their attention to Truckee, which defeated Moapa Valley 27-0 in last season’s state title game. Moapa Valley beat Truckee 35-16 in the state final two years ago.
“We know Truckee’s the real deal,” Brent Lewis said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, for sure. We like the challenge.”