Two Paths Lead To Allegiant: Pirates Bests Fallon, 42-21
The Moapa Valley High School Football team, as #1 seed in the South, hosted the NIAA State Semifinals game against Churchill County on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 13. Churchill County, the #2 seed from the north, travelled to the Jeff Keel stadium for the first time to play the Pirates on their home turf. The Greenwave was beaten by the Pirates 42-21.
Churchill came into the game with a record of 6-4 overall and 3-1 in league play. Moapa Valley is undefeated now at 11-0.
The day was warm, reaching 86 degrees during the game. It appeared to have some effect on the Green Wave as they wilted in the fourth quarter. Moapa Valley scored three touchdowns in the fourth creating a four touchdown lead until 6 seconds remaining when Churchill County scored their final touchdown of the season.
“How about that fourth quarter?” said a very happy MVHS Head Coach Brent Lewis after the game. “I told Brandon to just go 10 yards at a time, running the time off the clock and we scored.”
He was referring to Assistant Coach and offensive coordinator Brandon Jones.
Lewis and the Pirates had not beaten Churchill County though they have often met up with the Green Wave in Fallon or in Reno in previous post-season games. A 2013 loss 34-24, was the only loss for the Pirates that season. After winning the state title miraculously over Desert Pines in 2014, the next year’s state title game at Reno High School in 2015 saw the Green wave win against the PIrates 34-27.
On Saturday, the Green Wave started with the ball ending the drive with a punt. Moapa Valley took over deep inside their 10 yard line. The Pirates would drive to the 10 yardline of the Green Wave where CJ Anderson kicked a 31 yard field goal giving the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
On their next possession, the Green Wave found themselves in fourth-and-one at their own 39 yard line. They decided to go for the first down and lost a yard as the whole Pirate defensive line met the runner in the back field turning the ball over on downs at the 38.
First play after that had Pirates senior Austin Heiselbetz have the ball bounce off his hands and into the hands of a Green Wave defensive back turning the ball over at the 39 yard line after a short return. But the loss was only in time as Moapa Valley held the Greenwave to a punt.
A few minutes later Heiselbetz ran a slant catching the ball taking it to the Green Wave 40. Moapa Valley moved the ball inside the 10 on fourth and one when Heiselbetz lined up in the wildcat gaining the first down and setting up inside the Green Wave 7 yard line. The Pirates would get to the 4 when they set up for another field goal. This time from 21 yards. The Pirates lead 6-0 with 5:12 to play in the first half.
Heiselbetz would score the Pirates first touchdown. With 1:35 to play in the first half. He ran left in the Wildcat formation untouched for 31 yards to the endzone.
Still in the Wildcat, Heiselbetz found Eli Cox alone in the endzone for the 2-point conversion and a 14-0 Pirate lead.
It was then that Churchill County found some life. Their drive ended with a pass reception by Tyler Austin with 16 seconds remaining in the half. The extra point missed and the Pirates held a 14-6 lead at half time.
The Pirates scored on their very first drive of the second half. Ben Jolley caught a 14-yard pass from Neilson. Anderson’s kick gave the Pirates a 21-6 lead with 9:26 left in the third quarter.
Churchill converted two fourth down plays to lead to their next touchdown. The first was 4 and 18 the second was from the 1-yard line. Green Wave quarterback Keaton Williams ran it in from a yard away. Ethan Couter caught the 2-point conversion bring the score to 21-14 Moapa Valley.
The Pirates responded when Gunner Redd caught a 37-yard touchdown reception from Neilson with 11:51 to play in the game. Anderson made the extra point for a 28-14 lead.
Heiselbetz scored a 60 yard reception from Neilson. Anderson made the extra point for a 35-14 lead.
Moapa Valley scored the final time when Wrzesinski completed the Pirate drive on a 7-yard run. Anderson’s extra point came with 1:37 to play for a 42-14 lead.
Churchill County scored once more with 4 seconds remaining in the game. The 4-yard pass reception made the final game score 42-21.
Neilson went 15-25 for 294 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
In all the Pirates ran for 227 yards total on 33 carries. Landon Wrzenski alone ran the ball 13 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Heiselbetz caught five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Moapa Valley finished with 524 yards of total offense.
Sam Wheeler led the Pirate defense with 11 tackles.
With the win, the Pirates advance to play rivals Virgin Valley High School in the 3A State Championship game on Thursday night at 7 pm at Allegiant Stadium, Home of the Raiders, in Las Vegas.
This will be the third time these two local teams have played each other in the state championship. In the previous two, the team who had won the regular season game lost the title game.
In the first of these legendary matchups, Virgin Valley beat the Pirates 10-7 in 2006. The very next year the two played again and Moapa won 35-14.
Moapa Valley beat the Bulldogs 46-28 a month ago for the Hammer.
So here it is, the best high school rivalry in Nevada meeting again for the state title.