Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011 | 9:21 p.m.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — On most Friday nights after a game, Moapa Valley High football coach Brent Lewis shakes hands with the opposing players and coaches, gives a short interview to the Overton paper and heads into his office to analyze the game with the coaching staff.
His cell phone will eventually ring with reporters from Las Vegas looking for a final score and some game highlights. But the conversation is likely brief because the 3A school of about 600 students is overshadowed when large-school powers Bishop Gorman or Palo Verde are playing the same night.
This all changed Saturday night — at least for one day.
Moapa Valley rallied from an early two-touchdown deficit against Show Low High of Arizona for a thrilling 28-26 victory in the small-school game of the Sollenberger Classic at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The event was covered by the national media for the Classic’s second game, a contest between national-ranked Gorman and Chaparral High of Scottsdale. But after Moapa Valley did what it does best — fight until the end, execute its game plan and play smart football — Lewis was mobbed on the sideline for interviews.
With his players celebrating their upset victory in the background, Lewis fielded questions from five reporters — all from outside Nevada.
One of the top programs in all of Nevada high school sports — Moapa Valley has won 15 state titles, which is third most in state history — was finally getting the attention it deserved. You could tell the players weren’t used to it.
When one player was being interviewed, several of his teammates gathered around to listen. Who could blame them? They wanted to savor the victory.
“You play to win,” senior lineman Taylor Schwartz said. “We didn’t want to come seven hours to get our butts kick. It was just an incredible experience. We wanted to take home that trophy and we did.”
Not bad for a team that had to replace all of its key skilled-position players from last year’s team. But when you have a program with as much success and tradition as Moapa Valley, you simply reload.
Sean McConnell rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Dakota Watters completed 7 of 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. It was the type of performance Show Low was supposed to give.
Moapa Valley was considered an underdog in the game, partially because Show Low’s top player, BYU-commit Josh Weeks, was expected to take over the game.
And he did early.
Weeks scored both of Show Low’s first-quarter touchdowns, finishing with 105 rushing yards on nine carries and 10 receptions for 139 yards. But he was hardly a factor in the second half — a sign of the good coaching at Moapa, something the out-of-state media clearly picked up on.
“I can understand guys not giving us a chance,” Lewis said. “We talked about that. It helps motivate us. They made sure they knew if something bad happened how to deal with adversity.”
By handling that adversity, Moapa Valley’s program definitely earned some respect. It’s something the folks of Overton have long known.
“I would say we are a top 10 team in the state, 4A and all included,” Schwartz said.
After Saturday’s performance, I’m not the only one in agreement.