Truckee looking to avenge 2008 state title defeat to Moapa Valley
November 21, 2009
Don’t expect either 3A power to take the other lightly in Saturday’s state championship rematch. Both head coaches are far too cagey to allow such an arrogant mistake.
Aside from that mutual respect, however, no one is quite sure what to expect when Truckee puts its undefeated record on the line against two-time defending champ Moapa Valley.
“They (the Pirates) have several returners back from last year’s state championship team, and obviously being two-time defending state champs, they know exactly what they need to do to prepare for Saturday’s game to be successful,” said Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer.
“They have some experience.”
Last year the Pirates defeated Truckee 35-16 in Las Vegas to earn back-to-back state championships. It was Moapa Valley’s third title since joining the 3A, and 15th total.
Truckee, meanwhile, which last won state in 2005, will look to add a sixth championship in the 3A, and ninth total.
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“I’ve seen a little film on them. They’re very impressive,” Moapa Valley head coach Brent Lewis said of the Wolverines. “They have lots of athletes all over the field, and an awesome quarterback. They just have a lot of good athletes. We know we got our work cut out for us.”
Truckee enters 11-0 overall, and 8-0 against the 3A. Moapa Valley is 7-3 overall, and 3-1 against the 3A.
More importantly, both squads are blistering hot coming off a string of lopsided wins.
In their last six games, the Pirates have scored 286 points while holding their opposition to 27, including a 43-0 rout against Fernley in last week’s state semifinal. In Truckee’s last six games, the Wolverines have scored 307 points while giving up just 17, including a touchdown in a 35-8 win against Boulder City last week. Both teams pitched three shutouts in those wins.
Whereas the Wolverines have routed every opponent this season, however – winning each contest by 20 points or more – the Pirates stumbled out to an 0-2 start, then 1-3, before finding their groove. Granted, they were missing several key players in the early season, namely senior linebacker/fullback Jake Pearce – last year’s All-State Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
“I think we’ve improved so much from that first game to now that we’re not even the same team,” said Lewis, referring to the Pirates’ season-opening loss, 28-27, at Fernley.
Now that Moapa Valley has hit its stride, Lewis said the group is comparable to last year’s, only a little smaller across the board, and without its powerful senior running back, Brad Weiss, who was voted 2008 All-State MVP.
“We’re a little bit different. We’re not as big as we were last year, and we don’t have the power runner we had last year. But we’ve got good receivers and a good quarterback, and we’ve still got good linemen,” Lewis said. “I’d say maybe we’re a little bit more finesse than last year, but not much.”
While last year’s Pirates were huge in comparison to the Wolverines, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines, they also boasted speed at the skill positions. That hasn’t changed.
Senior receiver/safety Matt Newton remains one of Moapa Valley’s primary weapons, having caught 37 passes for 996 yards – tops in Southern Nevada – with 12 touchdown receptions. Newton ranks third in Southern Nevada in scoring, accounting for 158 points on 22 TDs and 26 point-after tries.
Junior quarterback Kelan Weiss has posted big numbers as well. He’ll enter Saturday’s championship 83 of 138 (60.1 percent), for 1,494 yards with 19 TD passes. Then there’s the Pirates’ middle linebacker/fullback duo of Pearce and Alex Huerta, whom Lewis considers the heart of his team.
“They’re kind of my tough guys,” the coach said. “They’re solid blockers up front, and definitely solid defensively. They’re our leaders.”
The Wolverines are not without their fair share of studs, either, and they have them at nearly every position.
Six Truckee running backs are averaging 7 or more yards per carry – led by Jordan Deiro’s 683 yards on 67 rushes – while two receivers have posted 400 or more yards on the season – Vince Shaffer (443 yards) and James DePew (444 yards). The Wolverines’ junior quarterback, Ben Bolton, has played as well as anyone, amassing 1,843 yards on 105-of-161 passing (65.2 percent), with 26 TD throws.
Limiting Bolton is a major part of the Pirates’ game plan.
“We hope to be physical and give the quarterback some pressure,” Lewis said. “That’s the key I think to stopping Truckee, is not letting him stand back there and pick guys apart, which is what he’s done all season. So we’ve got to put some pressure on him somehow. We’ll be looking at finding ways to get to the quarterback.”
One thing is for sure: It will be entertaining.
State championship glance
Truckee will face Moapa Valley in the 3A state championship game Saturday at 3 p.m. at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno.