Published Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011 | 11 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011 | 2:32 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer return with a breakdown of the two games as part of the Sollenberger Classic. Can Bishop Gorman win its first national game of the year against Arizona's Chaparral High? Moapa Valley also challenges Show Low at the University of Phoenix stadium this weekend.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The huddle the Moapa Valley players circled in before the second half of Saturday’s game against Arizona’s Show Low High seemed as loud as a heavy metal concert and as bouncy as a mosh pit.
No one could make out the exact words their teammates were trying to convey. The message got across, though.
“It was ‘step up,’” senior Shane Terril said. “We knew we could win this game. We knew they weren’t better than us. We needed to step up and show we had the heart.”
The Pirates muscled their way to a tenacious second-half comeback against the 2010 Arizona 3A state champions in the Sollenberger Classic at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Moapa Valley 28, Show Low 26.
Show Low senior receiver Josh Weeks, a BYU commit, exposed Moapa Valley in the first half for 157 total yards and three touchdowns. But the Pirates were able to keep Weeks out of the end zone and limit his production to less than 100 yards in the final 24 minutes.
“We knew that we were probably going to make some mistakes early and we did,” Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said. “But, man, we’ve got some kids who battle. That’s the simple truth right there.”
The Pirates perseverance was best exemplified by its defensive effort early in the fourth quarter.
Holding on to a narrow 21-20 lead, Moapa Valley was able to stop Show Low on four consecutive plays inside the 10-yard line. Junior linebacker Kasen Hughes tipped one pass away in the end zone, while Terril and junior Austin Prisbrey denied any opportunities to Weeks with double coverage.
“Those were the kinds of times in games that you will remember down the road,” Lewis said.
The staunch resistance wasn’t over, as Show Low regained possession with four minutes remaining at its own 42-yard line.
Despite failing to get pressure on Show Low quarterback Zach Winn, the Moapa Valley secondary held strong and didn’t give up any yards on the first three plays. On fourth-and-10, the Pirates seeped through and Hughes chased Winn out of the pocket before sacking him 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
“I remember we were watching a highlight film on the way over here and one of our guys busted through and did that,” Hughes said. “I wanted to do the same. It was awesome.”
On the first play after Show Low’s turnover-on-downs, Sean McConnell burst up the middle on a dive for a 32-yard touchdown run. Moapa Valley had scored 14 unanswered points to transform the score to 28-20.
McConnell finished with 10 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Conner Mortensen added 18 carries for 83 yards, while Hughes had 31 yards and a touchdown.
The Firebirds answered with a minute left in the game when Winn threw a five-yard touchdown strike to Brian Johnson. But a two-point conversion attempt slipped out of a receiver’s hands and Moapa Valley easily recovered an onside kick attempt to ensure victory.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Terril said. “We are taking steps to win a state championship.”