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Win over rival gives defending 3A champion Moapa Valley week off

Winning a league title is sweet enough by itself.

Doing it while beating your top rival makes it even more special.

In a Class 3A Desert League showdown Friday night, Moapa Valley went to Virgin Valley and won the Hammer Game 19-6 to claim the top seed in the league and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The Pirates (10-0) were rolling entering their matchup with Virgin Valley, having beaten its previous four opponents by a combined 189-23.

But it’s not like Moapa Valley hasn’t been tested this season. The Pirates barely got by Boulder City 26-22 and Pahrump Valley 7-6, and they were challenged by SLAM Nevada before prevailing 29-13.

“We kind of missed having some of those close games, and we played a lot of close ones early this year,” Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said. “It gave us a lot of confidence that we could go over and beat Virgin on their field.”

Winning isn’t exactly foreign to Moapa Valley, which in rallying to beat Virgin Valley 27-14 last season at Allegiant Stadium captured the school’s 17th state title.

Gone, however, are 23 seniors from that team, and 18 of the 22 starters had to be replaced.

“There were a lot of growing pains we had to go through early, but I thought our kids were capable all along,” Lewis said.

Familiar faces

Bishop Gorman coach Brent Browner wasn’t expecting to face Faith Lutheran in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

But Faith Lutheran was beaten 34-31 by Green Valley on Friday, dropping the Crusaders to the fourth seed in the Mountain League and setting up Thursday’s matchup. Not to mention allowing Green Valley — at least for now — to avoid the Gaels.

“We didn’t expect that,” Browner said, who sounded upbeat about the challenge ahead and a little nostalgic as well.

Faith Lutheran has a special place in Browner’s heart. He coached there more than a decade ago and spoke glowingly of the program, noting there was a real push at Faith Lutheran to play at the highest levels.

“When I was at Faith, we wanted to play Gorman every year,” Browner said. “We wanted the competition.”

Stunning rise

SLAM Nevada, a charter school that focuses on sports management and is backed by pop star Pitbull, didn’t break ground until 2015.

The Bulls’ first season playing any kind of high school football occurred in 2018 when they went 2-0 as an independent. In their first full season, in 2019, they went 3-7.

Then, of course, COVID hit.

But after Friday’s 39-7 victory over Eldorado, the Bulls have their first league title.

Playoff odds

There is no (legal) betting on high school games, so the following odds to win the respective state championships are purely for recreational purposes. And more than a scientific breakdown, these odds side more with educated guesses.

Class 5A

Gorman 1-100

Liberty 25-1

Desert Pines 50-1

Arbor View 80-1

Class 4A

Silverado 1-50

Shadow Ridge 20-1

Las Vegas 30-1

Coronado 35-1

Basic 40-1

Class 3A

Moapa Valley 4-1

SLAM Nevada 8-1

Virgin Valley 12-1

Boulder City 20-1

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at at [email protected] Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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