Jesse Granger / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 | 1 a.m.
Chaparral lined up at Faith Lutheran’s 20-yard line for 4th and 10 with less than a minute to play in the game — trailing 20-13.
“I was just thinking that this is it,” said Chaparral quarterback Andrew Solis. “It’s do or die; if we don’t score we go home and I didn’t want to go home.”
Solis dropped back, and threw a dart to senior receiver Richard Nelson in the back of the end zone to pull Chaparral within one point.
“The safety moved over to the left side, and Richard was one-on-one with the linebacker,” Solis said. “He’s the second-fastest kid in the state, so I will take that any day.”
A simple extra point would have tied the game and likely sent it to overtime, but coach Paul Nihipali made a play call that was nearly as shocking as the fact that Chaparral was even in the game: He went for the two-point conversion.
“We were contemplating, and we saw that the defense was crowded, so I wanted to run the jumbo right up the middle,” Nihipali said. “But my offensive coordinator said, 'No, coach, we have to run (a pass play).' I asked him are you sure? He said, 'Yeah, coach, Jacob is going to be wide open.' So I trusted my offensive coordinator and went with that.”
Solis faked a handoff and rolled to his right, only to see Jacob Ford wide open in the end zone. Solis completed the pass, and Chaparral capped one of the biggest upsets of the season — knocking off 9-1 Faith Lutheran, 21-20, on its home field.
“I loved the call,” Solis said. “I like that (coach) wasn’t afraid and played conservative and tried to tie it up. I like that he went for the win. I was all for it.”
That Nihipali showed confidence in Solis on the final two plays might have been surprising. Solis had struggled mightily throughout the night, completing 11-of-25 passes for 98 yards and two interceptions prior to the final touchdown toss.
The Cowboys relied heavily on their defense to keep them in the game, and they delivered one of the most impressive defensive performances of the year.
Faith Lutheran scored back-to-back touchdowns in the first quarter to lead 14-0 but was held out of the end zone for the final three quarters.
Crusaders’ quarterback Brenden Joyce started the game well, completing 10 of his first 11 passes. But the Cowboys clamped down, limiting the senior to only five completions in his final 19 throws along with two interceptions.
Senior Tyler Ford intercepted Joyce on a deep pass on the final play of the game to seal the win and ignite an uproar from the Cowboys’ sideline.
“The game plan was to stop him from coming off the edge and for our defensive end to put pressure on him,” Nihipali said. “We had to blitz and do a lot of different motion to get to him.”
The blitzes worked, as Chaparral sacked Joyce four times and forced three fumbles.
Junior defensive lineman Jesus Hernandez accounted for two of the sacks and pressured Joyce on nearly every throw.
“Defense is the heart of our team,” Solis said. “Without them there’s no possible way we would make it even close to where we are right now.”
And where the Cowboys are right now is Division 1-A state semifinals. Chaparral will make the trip up North next Saturday when they face the Churchill County High.
“It’s by far the best moment of my career,” Solis said. “There’s nothing close to it.”