Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018 | 12:25 a.m.
Standing only 5-foot-6 and weighing 150 pounds, Green Valley High junior running back Maaliek Duncan isn’t very big, but that didn’t keep him from dragging Moapa Valley defenders all over the field Friday night.
In his first-ever game at the varsity level, Duncan ran for 151 yards and a touchdown to lead the Gators to a 34-20 win over Moapa Valley on opening night.
“Maaliek is a tough guy,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said. “He’s not very big but he plays his heart out, and I couldn’t be more proud of him tonight.”
On multiple occasions, Duncan was met short of a first down by a horde of Pirate defenders, but each time he would keep his legs churning, and the pile of white jerseys would begin moving in the wrong direction, for a Green Valley first down.
“I just keep on moving my feet at all times,” Duncan said. “That’s really it.”
Duncan showcased his elusiveness as well, including a 28-yard touchdown run in the second quarter where he danced through most of the Moapa Valley defense.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “It’s my first time on varsity and it felt pretty good, and there’s more to come. I was following my blockers, seeing holes and running straight through them.”
The win was far from a work of art for the Gators, who threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on their opening drive and fumbled the ball away on the one-yard line twice.
“We have some things to clean up, but I think everybody does at this time of year,” Castro said. “Without having a scrimmage and our first time out with new guys in key positions, we’re happy to come out with a win.”
Castro’s son Garrett made his first varsity start at quarterback and bounced back for a solid game after throwing the interception on the opening drive. He completed 17-of-33 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns — most of which went to senior receiver Kalyja Waialae.
Waialae caught seven passes for 136 yards and two scores, including a 58-yard touchdown to seal the game late in the third quarter.
“I wish we would have hit (Waialae) a little bit sooner, but for a young quarterback in his first time out I thought he did a pretty good job of managing things and not making too many mistakes,” Castro said.
Moapa Valley began the game with a bang when Josh Cox returned Garrett Castro’s interception 65 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. But Green Valley answered with four-straight touchdowns.
The Gators scored three touchdowns in a span of less than four minutes thanks to a recovered onside kick and an interception by senior cornerback Kristofferson Balagot.
“That’s the way you’d like to have it all the time and we know that’s not the case,” Castro said. “Sometimes you need to score in bursts and let the defense take care of the rest.”
Green Valley held Moapa Valley under 100 yards in the second half, and would have run away with the game if not for two fumbles a yard from the end zone.
Senior running back Julian Hulse provided a good backfield duo with Duncan, rushing 16 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“Julian is the seasoned vet and he’s got a little bit better feel for it right now,” Castro said. “Maaliek ran well and it’s nice to have that speed guy to go with the big guy.”
Duncan may be 65 pounds lighter than Hulse, but he runs with a similar smashmouth mentality.
The Gators will need to clean up their mistakes to come away with a win next week, as they host Centennial. Green Valley eked out a win over the Bulldogs 24-21 with some last-minute heroics last season.