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January 27, 2015

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Moapa Valley jumps at chance to play in Arizona Cardinals stadium


Sam Morris

Moapa Valley High School football players Jacob Rebman, Sean McConnell and Dakota Watters.

Getting ready for another high school football season

Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer joins Randy Howe on the KSNV Sunday night sports show to look at the upcoming high school football season.

Prep Sports Now

Gorman out to break trend at Sollenberger Classic

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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.

For the residents of Moapa Valley to fill up University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, each one of them would need to attend a game and bring 10 friends.

It’s rare that a high school football team from Nevada’s smaller-school classification gets a chance to play in a national game, let alone in a professional venue. Moapa Valley High will have the opportunity Saturday when it challenges Arizona’s Show Low High in the first game of the Sollenberger Classic.

“When the kids found out we were playing in the Cardinals’ stadium, that was an eye-opening thing for them,” Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said. “They have just been so excited.”

In the past, participants in the Sollenberger Classic were limited to the defending Nevada 4A state champion and its Arizona 5A counterpart. But classic officials decided to include the 3A this year as a way to feature Show Low, which is ranked No. 413 in the nation by

As last year’s Nevada 3A state champion, Truckee High was first offered the game. When Truckee turned it down, the option fell to 2010 runner-up Moapa Valley. It didn’t take the Pirates long to accept.

“I went to the other coaches, and they were like, ‘Let’s jump on this,’ ” Lewis said. “This is really a great way to start our season. Win or lose, I just don’t see any downside to it.”

The classic will pay for Moapa Valley’s three-night hotel stay and host a banquet including all four teams. The Pirates plan to practice twice in the Phoenix area and will also receive a tour of the stadium the day before their game.

It’s the kind of treatment that’s memorable to any prep sports team, but especially one that isn’t used to it. Moapa Valley doesn’t a have a national reputation as a football powerhouse like Bishop Gorman or Arizona’s Chaparral High, the two teams that meet in the second game Saturday.

Maxpreps lists Gorman and Chaparral as 10th and 24th in the country, respectively. The website ranks Moapa Valley as the 5,437th team in the nation.

Gorman’s roster is littered with Division-I recruits, while no major college programs are after anyone from Moapa Valley.

“I definitely didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to play in an NFL stadium,” said Jacob Rebman, a senior tight end and linebacker for Moapa Valley. “I really like the Arizona Cardinals, so I’m excited to play there.”

Rebman grew up a Cardinals fan because of their proximity and television availability to Southern Nevada. His favorite player is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whom he said he wished he could emulate on the field.

But the biggest challenge for Rebman and the other team leaders may have nothing to do with catching passes or making tackles. They’ll need to ensure their teammates are mentally ready to play and not too encapsulated with jitters in the moment.

“Maybe at the beginning we will be nervous, but I think we’ll settle down and be calm,” senior quarterback Dakota Watters said. “Our goal is to win a state championship and I think this will benefit us greatly.”

Lewis would argue the Sollenberger Classic has already helped the Pirates. The coach received an overwhelming response from his players when he told them about the game this summer.

Motivated by the opportunity, Lewis said more players than ever showed up during daily summer weightlifting sessions. He described their work ethic in the offseason as “phenomenal.”

“This team is a lot more focused,” Rebman said. “We did lose quite a few players from last year, but we had a lot of good juniors and a lot of players in line.”

In addition to Watters and Rebman, the Pirates will heavily rely on junior running back and defensive back Sean McConnell. Moapa Valley was known for its passing attack last season, but Lewis said it would run the ball more frequently this year with McConnell likely to emerge as the leading rusher.

The Pirates will have quite the stage to show off their new-look team. Before Saturday, the biggest stadium most of the team had played in was the one at Arbor View High School for last year’s state championship.

“The closest thing I had was the Silver Bowl back in 2004 when they had the 3A state championship there,” Lewis said. “It’s a drop in the bucket compared to this. What can I say? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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  1. Case/Ray,

    Any idea why Truckee turned the game down? I was kind of looking forward to them representing northern nv and the last few years they've done well.

    are moapa and sho low evenly matched or will it be a blow out?

  2. No clue. Great mystery. Big-time gift for Moapa Valley. I'm so happy for those kids.

  3. Source:

    From the article:

    When contacted by phone, Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer said he had not received any sort of invitation as of Tuesday evening. In fact, he was unfamiliar with the Sollenberger Classic.

    "All be darned," Shaffer said when told of the alleged invitation to play in the game.

    "I'm not even sure if we'd be ready to play at that point, especially considering we don't have anybody coming back on offense, and we only have two guys coming back on defense," Shaffer continued. "We'll need a lot of work before we're ready. If it were last year's team, with all the experience we had coming back, I might jump at that. But I don't know what I would do with this one."

    Shaffer said he would prefer to play in such a game at the end of the season when his team was better prepared.

  4. thanks blue and gold. Balls go to Moapa Valley for jumping on the opportunity

  5. I love northern Nevada's logic. "Let's get a California team so northern Nevada can be represented." Truckee needs to go to California where they belong.

  6. Ray-
    Any word on a radio/tv feed?
    How would you address your players if you turned that down? And how would you feel as a player?

  7. According to the Moapa Valley Progress July 13: "Truckee declined the invite due to travel and lack of experience coming back this year. The game will be played on Saturday August 20, 2011 with the NIAA picking up the bill." And I agree, blueandgold, how DOES Truckee explain that to their players? Moapa also lost alot of players, good for them for jumping on it anyway! Win or lose, I hope they have a great experience!

  8. Moapa plays terrific football. Should be a fun game.

  9. The Gorman game will be on Fox Sports Net National, which ISN'T part of the COX package. It is on DirectTV. Send me an email and I will forward you all of the information. Moapa not on TV.

  10. I will pose the question to Coach Shaffer today at their Scrimmage against Lassen.
    The last time this subject came up, Coach Shaffer had told me that Truckee "plans" for a 12 game season, every year, which means a trip to State, every year. The Sollenberger Classic would make 13.
    What most observers don't realize, is how banged up a football team gets through a 12 game season. Several key, standout players, (TE/DE, James Depew comes to mind, as well as OL/DL Dillon Sheedy), missed a few games down the stretch of last season. Even QB Ben Bolton was "sick as a dog" during the Lowry game.
    The NFL has a list of players, that include probable, questionable, etc. High School Football does not.
    The 2011 Wolverines will have 20 of 22 NEW starters.
    I will pose the same question to some of the returning players, that appear to be the new leaders of the team.
    My PERSONAL feelings are that it makes no sense to play a game like this, supposedly pitting two State Champions against each other, nearly a year after each team has won their State Championship, with completely different players.
    College Bowl games are played AFTER the same season, with the SAME teams that got them there.
    These games are typically marred with False Start and Offside penalties, fumbles, and errant or dropped passes. They really become "glorified scrimmages".
    I would like to see these games played two weeks AFTER the SAME season, like a Bowl Game. Now that would be great.
    For the record, Truckee scrimmaged against 4A Carson last season, however, Carson renegued on their commitment to face Truckee in a scrimmage this season.
    I also know that other 4A teams have turned down requests by Truckee to play them in the past.
    Under the most recent realignment, Truckee ONLY has 3A League games on their schedule, so there is no longer an opportunity to face out of conference opponents, such as perennial playoff teams such as Colfax and Mariposa.
    As far as the Undefeated Streak, I know for a fact, THAT has NOT ever entered into the equation. Coach Shaffer has always scheduled tough pre-league games until realignment, to get ready for league play.
    (For the record: I have been involved in Truckee Football since the 2004 season, and now broadcast their games on 101.5 FM KTKE, I also wrote the Truckee Football Blog on the Sierra Sun newspaper web site, and now handle the Facebook page, "Truckee Football".)
    I will get some quotes from both Coach Shaffer, and some Wolverine returning Varsity players, and share them here.
    Good Luck to Moapa Valley. I, and the Truckee Community respect their program, players and Community, immensely, as do our players.

  11. Should have a report on Lowry soon. MaxPreps has them ahead of Truckee, as they have quite a few more players returning than does Truckee.
    I believe they scrimmaged Elko today.
    The RGJ should have a preview of them up this next week.
    They have a very soft schedule the first 4 games. They open with 2A Battle Mountain, then face the bottom tier of the 3A, Wooster, South Tahoe, and Dayton, before being tested @ Elko.

  12. Today after the Wolverines scrimmage, Coach Shaffer reiterated that he would be very pleased to have his Championship Team play ANY Championship Team, during the same "season" or school year.
    Paraphrasing here now, he said the team that earned the right to play in that game does not exist anymore.
    He agreed that it should be shortly after the State Championship game, if this type of game is going to mean something.
    Judging by today's scrimmage, Truckee has a long way to go to get back to Championship form.
    When I spoke to several players that will be seniors this season, they all were absolutely fine with Coach Shaffer's decision to respectfully decline the invitation.
    Each of them felt it was important to get ready for another run at "State", and that they were not ready to play in a game like this, so early in the season.

  13. Congratulations to the Moapa Valley Pirates.
    See you in November.