Truckee football | 3A titans to clash for state championship | SierraSun.com

Truckee football | 3A titans to clash for state championship

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

Keith Sheffield/Sierra Sun File PhotoTruckee senior tight end/defensive end James DePew scores the Wolverines' first touchdown in the 2009 state championship against Moapa Valley. Truckee, which won that game 27-0, will face Moapa Valley again in the title game Saturday in Las Vegas.

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; One thing is certain entering Saturday’s 3A state championship clash in Las Vegas: The Moapa Valley Pirates seek revenge for last year’s 27-0 loss to the Wolverines.

and#8220;I’d say our kids are hungry,and#8221; Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. and#8220;What Truckee has done to the North is intimidate. We give Truckee all the respect they deserve, but we’re not going to back down.and#8221;

With 15 state titles to its name, Moapa Valley is a proud program and#8212; the kind that takes to heart an embarrassing loss on the biggest stage in Nevada high school football.

In that regard, the Pirates are no different than the nine-time state champion Wolverines, who played with revenge on their minds in last year’s state championship after losing to Moapa Valley 35-16 in the 2008 title game.

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen in the third installment of the recently stoked rivalry. But the statistics stack in Truckee’s favor. Heavily.

The 11-0 Wolverines are riding a 23-game win streak dating back to that 2008 championship loss. In their 11 wins this year, the first six of which were shutouts, they’ve amassed 501 points while holding opponents to just 58 points. And they’ve used a collective effort to do it, as 17 different players have combined for 2,985 rushing yards while 13 Wolverines have caught passes from senior quarterback Ben Bolton, who has thrown for 2,104 yards on 117-of-168 passing (69.6 percent). He has 25 touchdowns and four interceptions.

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and#8220;I wouldn’t say we have to play a perfect game (to win), but we have to play a near-perfect game,and#8221; Lewis said Thursday in a telephone interview. and#8220;We’ve got to force Truckee into some mistakes and hopefully get a couple turnovers. I don’t think you can totally shut Truckee’s offense down. But I think you can slow them down possibly, and maybe force some mistakes.

and#8220;We’re going to have to find a way to move the ball, too. Truckee’s defense is phenomenal. And if we can take time off the clock and keep their offense off the field, that’s going to be key.and#8221;

The Pirates, the top Southern seed at 7-4 overall, have warmed up as the season has progressed. Although they lost standout receiver Matt Newton from last year’s team, they return a number of seniors at skill positions, including quarterback Kelan Weiss, who has completed 141 of his 233 passes (60.5 percent) for 2,069 yards. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Senior running back/linebacker Zach Waite leads Moapa Valley’s rushing game with 541 yards on 101 carries, with eight TDs, while Riley Solomon has 209 yards on 55 carries. Senior receiver and defensive back Casen Lewis has a team-leading 842 yards receiving on 53 catches, and Hayden Cooper comes in with 746 yards on 53 receptions.

After struggling through a tough nonleague schedule against Southern 4A schools and traditionally strong Utah programs, the Pirates defeated Virgin Valley 33-21 and Lowry 35-20 in the postseason to advance to state.

and#8220;We’re a little different,and#8221; Lewis said when asked to compare this year’s team to his 2009 squad. and#8220;We’re probably a little less experienced, but after 11 games we’re kind of up to speed. We started a little slow because of our inexperience and tough schedule. We took our bumps and bruises along the way, but the kids are playing well.

and#8220;I’d say we’re a little more balanced. We spread it around. And then our physicality has come along too.and#8221;

Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer said after watching Moapa Valley on film, the Wolverines would be naive not to take the Pirates seriously.

and#8220;I think they are better athletically than they were last year,and#8221; Shaffer said. and#8220;They have their starting tailback back from last year, they have their starting quarterback back from last year, they have their starting wide receiver and wingback from last year. They were all juniors last year, so from that standpoint they’re all older and better athletically and filled out a little bit more.

and#8220;So we’re expecting the best that they have. And they’re going to throw it all at us, I’m sure.and#8221;

As far as variables, weather could play a role, as the forecast calls for a chance of rain and wind Saturday night. In the Wolverines’ closest call of the season, when they escaped with a 22-16 win against Lowry on Oct. 23, rain and muddy conditions caused a number of crucial Truckee turnovers.

and#8220;Hopefully that prepared us a little bit for what’s going to happen here,and#8221; Shaffer said, pointing out that Saturday’s game will be played on artificial turf, eliminating potential mud issues.

About home-half-of-the-state advantage for the Pirates, both coaches agreed the location is a factor. After all, Moapa Valley won in Vegas in 2008 while Truckee won in Reno in 2009.

and#8220;I’ve always said it’s hard to go South and win, just like it’s hard to go North and win,and#8221; Shaffer said. and#8220;We’ve done it, and they’ve done it obviously at times, too. But for the most part the team that has to travel, it just gets you out of your routine. You’re in a different place, you’re waiting around in a bus all day, you’re waiting around till 6 at night to play. and#8230; So from that standpoint it’s going to be something different for us. But good teams know how to handle those situations and don’t let that be a distraction.and#8221;

Said Lewis: and#8220;Any advantage we can get against a well-coached, aggressive team like Truckee, we’ll take it.and#8221;