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Class 3A football: Moapa Valley begins defense of state title

Class 3A Desert

Moapa Valley Pirates

Coach: Brent Lewis (173-63 entering 21st season)

2021 season: 12-0

Playoffs: Defeated Virgin Valley in the 3A state championship game

Breakdown: The Pirates don’t have much varsity experience back after a senior-laden team ran to an undefeated season and the 3A state championship last year.

Lewis said Moapa Valley has five players who have varsity experience, but one of them is Landon Wrzesinski. The senior running back finished just shy of 1,000 yards, and Lewis said Wrzesinski will “probably never come off the field,” whether that’s on offense, as a defensive back or return specialist.

None of the Pirates’ juniors has played much, if at all, on varsity, but their junior varsity team went undefeated, so “it’s not like they don’t have the ability to play football,” Lewis said.

Moapa Valley has a 15-game winning streak dating to the spring of 2021, but Lewis expects his team to take some lumps early while its newcomers learn to play on Friday nights.

Rancho Rams

Coach: Leon Evans (4-13 entering third season)

2021 season: 3-4

Playoffs: None

Breakdown: The Rams never got into the rhythm of last season, as three of their first five games were canceled because of COVID.

They hope a season with no restrictions will give them a better shot, but they are young. Evans said of his 10 returning players, most were reserves last season.

Evans likes his offensive line, led by tackles Hudson Lile and Kummire Edwards, and said senior quarterback Vince Marcione “does a little bit of everything.”

The Rams are thin in the secondary, Evans said, so that will need to be shored up as the season progresses.

Valley Vikings

Coach: Marvin Ezugha (first season)

2021 season: 3-7

Playoffs: Lost to SLAM Nevada in the 3A Southern Region quarterfinals

Breakdown: The Vikings reached the playoffs last season and have about 25 players returning.

Ezugha said his first fall camp mostly has been about building discipline.

He has some solid returners in running back Cam Townsend and athlete Mike McCord, and said there are a lot of athletes on the team and “skill players everywhere.”

Ezugha said the key to being successful will be how the players take the ups and downs that come with a long season.

Virgin Valley Bulldogs

Coach: Matt Woods (28-10 entering fifth season)

2021 season: 10-3

Playoffs: Lost to Moapa Valley in the 3A state championship game

Breakdown: Motivation isn’t hard to find at Virgin Valley after it reached the state championship game but lost to rival Moapa Valley.

The Bulldogs figure to be strong defensively with seven starters back, including middle linebacker Martin Jordan, who led them with 112 tackles. Alex Valle had 10 sacks as a freshman, and he will man one of Virgin Valley’s defensive end spots.

Woods expects Cutler Crandall to be a two-way standout as a receiver and defensive back and said Chase Otteson should be tough to handle as a receiver and will “shut some people down” as a cornerback.

Western Warriors

Coach: Jesse Dailey (3-24 entering fourth season)

2021 season: 1-8

Playoffs: None

Breakdown: It’s a young group of Warriors that will try to turn around the program’s fortunes this season.

Western hasn’t won more than two games in any season since a 3-6 record in 2010, and it has only five seniors on this year’s roster.

One of them, General Laupapa, will be expected to lead the offensive and defensive lines. Junior Roberto Vargas is back at quarterback after throwing for 394 yards last year.

Mountain League

Boulder City Eagles

Coach: Chris Morelli (24-33 entering eighth season)

2021 season: 4-4

Playoffs: None

Breakdown: After failing to make the playoffs last year, the Eagles are out for redemption.

Morelli expects Boulder City’s strength to be its running game, with a “good-sized and experienced line” blocking for running back Hunter Moore, who had 722 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground last season.

Brayden Cook and Dylan Spencer lead the offensive line, and Bruce Woodbury figures to be used as a weapon all over the offense.

The defense will be young, and how quickly it can grow up will likely determine how successful the Eagles are.

Eldorado Sundevils

Coach: Darryl Tootle (first season)

2021 season: 3-7

Playoffs: Lost to Virgin Valley in the 3A Southern Region quarterfinals

Breakdown: Tootle was the defensive coordinator for Eldorado last year and watched it reach the playoffs despite dropping its final four games. The Sundevils have seven starters back on both sides of the ball, and Tootle said many of them were learning last year but now have a better understanding of what’s expected of them.

One of them was quarterback Matthew Gallegos, and Tootle said he is the Sundevils’ best player. Napoleon Washington is one of the best route runners Tootle has been around, and Jalen Roquemore is “slippery and tough” as a running back.

Tootle has high expectations for defensive end Demir Adams, whom he described as a “freak.” The X-factor could be receiver-cornerback D’angelo Moore, who will be ineligible the first three weeks. Tootle said Moore could be the best player in 3A.

Pahrump Valley Trojans

Coach: Tom Walker (first season)

2021 season: 4-4

Playoffs: Lost to Virgin Valley in the 3A Southern Region semifinals

Breakdown: The Trojans had a strange 2021 season with two straight COVID cancellations to start the season.

When they finally got on the field, they lost their first three games before bouncing back with a four-game winning streak to win the Mountain League title.

Walker said anything short of a repeat league title will be a “failed season.” The Trojans are known as a smash-mouth team that always has size up front, and this year’s team is no different, led by Tanner Hinks.

But Walker wants to throw the ball more with Scott Oscarson at quarterback, and he will have playmakers around him in running back Brennan Benedict and tight end Jose Lara.

Pinecrest Cadence Cougars

Coach: Risti Liugalua (first season)

2021 season: 0-9

Playoffs: None

Breakdown: The Cougars are looking to end a 13-game losing streak after they won their first game in program history during the spring of 2021.

They will need to come a long way to get that done after being outscored 455-19 last season.

SLAM Nevada Bulls

Coach: Mike Cofer (18-15 entering fifth season)

2021 season: 8-4

Playoffs: Lost to Moapa Valley in the 3A Southern Region semifinals

Breakdown: The Bulls took a massive step forward last season, as their eight wins were five more than any previous campaign.

That included a win over Virgin Valley that showed SLAM Nevada could compete against anyone in 3A. Cofer said the Bulls have 16 returning starters. It’s still a young program, but Cofer said this is the most experience SLAM Nevada has had.

Most of the returners will play both ways, including Donnell Colbert, who will move from slot receiver to quarterback and play cornerback. Daniel Nevil leads the defensive at middle linebacker, and Moses Tabancura is a “Swiss Army knife” whom Cofer expects to use in different ways on both sides of the ball. Blayz McGhee will mostly play free safety but also could be used at cornerback.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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