Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 | 12:15 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports editors Ray Brewer and Case Keefer welcome back football season by going through all the leagues, and also touch on major storylines. They also disagree on picks for numerous week 1 games.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock during Western High’s 20-0 win over Rancho Friday night, the players on the sideline counted down.
“Five, four, three, two, one,” they screamed.
And as the old, tattered scoreboard read triple-zeros, the tears started to stream.
The win took only a few hours, but it was 2,458 days in the making for the Western Warriors football program.
The last time the Warriors walked off the field a winner, on Nov. 4, 2010, this team’s seniors were in elementary school.
“I’m almost speechless for what we did tonight,” said first-year coach Tyler Tuiasosopo. “For our seniors and guys who have been in the program for four years to taste victory with the tears in their eyes is amazing.”
Western wasted no time making believers out of this year’s players — driving 65 yards on its opening drive capped off with a 10-yard touchdown run by senior Anthony Shelby.
But it was the second drive of the game that turned the tide. It separated this year’s squad from the last six years of winless football.
Following four straight penalties, the Warriors were backed up on their own 30-yard line facing a 3rd and 43.
Senior quarterback Joey Medley dropped back and hoisted a perfect pass into the outstretched arms of Shelby, who trotted 70 yards for the score.
“At that point a lot of guys are just ready to fold it and punt it away, but what do we have to lose?” Tuiasosopo said. “We took a shot and our guys responded.”
Medley finished the game with 139 yards and two scores passing, and another 53 yards rushing.
“He had an awesome night and he’s continuing to grow,” Tuiasosopo said. “We are tying to see what we can do to accentuate his strengths like rolling him out in the pocket.”
Medley stood in the pocket and took hit after hit from the Rancho front seven as he completed key pass after key pass.
“His poise tonight was pretty amazing,” Tuiasosopo said. “He took some heavy shots tonight but just kept getting up. It reminded me of the dirty, heavyweight boxers up in the Bronx.”
Shelby finished with two catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, and fellow senior receiver Eric Hughes caught two passes for 51 yards and a score, but the real star for Western was its defense.
“(Defensive coordinator) Devonte Craig is all I have to say,” Tuiasosopo declared. “He put together an awesome game plan, and everybody executed the game plan to perfection.”
Western held Rancho to a mere 69 yards of total offense, and only 12 yards in the second half.
“Western has so much talent that we’re just trying to show it,” Tuiasosopo said. “The players put a lot of their trust into us (as a coaching staff). We promised that if they do what we ask it would happen for them.”
The small group of players that had never won a game of varsity football in their lives jumped, screamed, sprayed water in the air and embraced each other after the game. They ran over to the packed stands and proudly chanted their war cry for the first time ever as winners.
“Our band was rocking and it was just an awesome atmosphere at Western High School,” Tuiasosopo said. “I could not be happier for those 35 guys in that locker room tonight.”