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Don KetchumStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Moapa Valley looks for 2nd straight Sollenberger winAug 16, 2012
By Don Ketchum
When the football team from Moapa Valley High in Overton, Nev., played in the 2011 Sollenberger Classic, coach Brent Lewis said his team was in awe of being in such a high-profile facility as University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
“I don’t think many of our kids had been to a pro football stadium before, much less played on the same field as the pros do,’’ Lewis said.
“It was an awesome experience for all of us.’’
A 28-26 victory over Show Low added to the warm and fuzzy feeling.
Now the Pirates, two-time state runner-up in their state’s 3A classification, are back again and this time will play Arizona’s defending Division IV champion, Lakeside Blue Ridge, in the 2012 Sollenberger Classic on Saturday (Aug. 18) at 3 p.m.
The game will be followed by another contest featuring Palo Verde, Nev. and Phoenix Desert Vista.
“I was pleased and proud of the way our guys handled that pressure situation,’’ Lewis said. “They were a little timid at first, but they rebounded nicely, came back strong.’’
Lewis knows that Blue Ridge, winner of multiple state championships under coach Paul Moro, will be a formidable opponent as was Show Low, Blue Ridge’s neighborhood rival in the White Mountains area.
“They are a hard-nosed, tough, disciplined football team,’’ Lewis said. “They are big and physical and they have good speed. Not a lot of weaknesses there.’’
It will be a bit like looking in the mirror.
“They do things similar to what we do,’’ Lewis said. “They use the Wing T, power the ball up inside and mix in some play-action and option.’’
Blue Ridge’s defense likely will be a significant obstacle.
Lewis is particularly concerned about the play of the Yellowjackets’ linebackers, including middle man Chans Cox, who has committed to Arizona State.
Moapa Valley has a high-quality middle linebacker of its own in Kasen Hughes, who doubles as a tight end. It is very likely that Hughes and Cox will lock shoulder pads on at least a few occasions.
The Pirates have a double-barreled rushing attack with Connor Mortensen and Sean McConnell. Mortensen rushed for more than 1,300 yards last season and McConnell had more than 800.
“Those guys and Hughes carry the load. They are our leaders, high-character guys,’’ Lewis said.
The game also will be a big test for Moapa Valley because Nevada has realigned its classifications and Moapa Valley, with an enrollment of about 550, has been placed with higher-enrollment schools from the Las Vegas area, about an hour’s drive away.
“This is the type of game that we will be playing all year,’’ Lewis said.
The team practiced at Phoenix Camelback on Thursday night (Aug. 16) and will again on Friday (Aug. 17). All four teams will gather for a meal at the stadium on Friday night and attend the preseason game between the Cardinals and Oakland Raiders.