Except for the ending, it was the kind of drive that sticks in the memory for a long time.
Trailing by eight with only 1 minute, 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Pahrump Valley High School football team marched 62 yards to the end zone, overcoming two sacks and converting two fourth downs along the way.
But, for the fourth time in the game, the Trojans could not muster a successful conversion, and Virgin Valley survived with a 26-24 win Friday night in Pahrump.
The Trojans showed their two-minute drill can work, even for a run-first (and second and third) team. Senior quarterback Tyler Floyd maintained his poise despite being sacked twice on the final series, finding Antonio Margiotta for 10 yards on a third-and-8 play, gaining 11 yards on a keeper on a fourth-and-9 and hitting Nico Velazquez for a 24-yard gain on fourth-and-11 with 18 seconds left.
The defender never turned around to find the ball on that last play, and Velazquez calmly hauled it in inside the Virgin Valley 14. A face mask penalty moved the ball halfway to the goal line, and, on second-and-goal, Floyd hit Margiotta for the 7-yard score with 3.8 seconds remaining.
But the Bulldogs defense stuffed Velazquez as he tried to find room to the right for the 2-point conversion.
The result was a scoreboard that reminded the Trojans of their previous game, a one-point loss to Lowry. In reality, the only thing the two games have in common is the narrow margins of defeat.
“It’s kind of the opposite of what we’re used to, which is what I’m trying to wrap my mind around,” Pahrump Valley coach Joe Clayton said. “Usually, we play really well at home and start fast at home. We started fast up in Winnemucca and didn’t finish that game. This one, we started slow at home and finished strong and almost pulled it out.
“They’re both tough losses. The biggest thing I’m trying to let the boys know is we just lost two games by three points.”
The biggest problem the Trojans had Friday night was Virgin Valley junior quarterback Meb Hollingshead, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 259 yards, including touchdown passes of 39 and 35 yards as the Bulldogs built a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
“Our weakness on defense in Winnemucca was our pass coverage, so when they looked at film they probably added a little bit to their passing game,” Clayton said. “Once he got outside, they freed up some open space for their receivers, and that did pose some problems for us tonight.”
Nobody knew it at the time, but the successful 2-point conversion after the third touchdown was the difference in the game. Hollingshead hit Lane Ramos to make it 20-0, the only successful conversion of the night for either team.
“You can’t spot them 20 points,” Clayton said. “For a good majority of three quarters, they scored six points.”
But figuring out how to slow down the Bulldogs wouldn’t mean much without getting some points on the board. Enter Velazquez. Pahrump Valley’s senior workhorse shifted into another gear, carrying four times for 67 yards on the drive following Virgin Valley’s third touchdown, capped by a 34-yard burst for the home team’s first score. The five-play, 1 minute, 59-second drive made it 20-6.
“Look at Nico, 148 yards,” Clayton marveled about the senior, who has 395 rushing yards in two games. “What a stud.”
The Trojans seized some momentum in the third quarter, as a tipped pass hauled in by Andrew Avena for an interception set up the Trojans near midfield on the first play after intermission. What followed was a drive that looked easy, with two Floyd to Dylan Grossell completions, the second going to the Virgin Valley 1, worked in between heavy doses of Velazquez, who punched it in from a yard out to cut the lead to 20-12.
But the Bulldogs showed some poise of their own, ignoring the vocal home crowd and putting together a 10-play, 67-yard drive that included converting a fourth-and-9. Wyatt Delano bulled over from the 1 for his second touchdown, but another failed conversion left the visitors with a 14-point lead.
The Trojans went three-and-out on their next two possessions, and when Virgin Valley marched to the Pahrump Valley 33 midway through the fourth, things looked bleak. But Anthony Peralta intercepted Hollingshead and brought it all the way back to the Bulldogs’ 45. That set up Velazquez, who carried three times for 25 yards on the ensuing drive, including a 2-yard touchdown to make it 26-18.
The Bulldogs got the ball back with 5:10 left but managed just one first down before the Pahrump Valley defense held, setting the stage for the dramatic final drive.
So once again, the Trojans are left with some strong positives to take from a game but with nothing to show for them. Clayton was philosophical, maintaining faith in his team to learn the right lessons moving forward.
“Last week we talked about taking care of the ball, and we had one fumble tonight,” he said after the game. “Obviously that’s a huge improvement. But I said by spotting them 20 points and starting real slow, well, now we’ve got to learn from that. I’m expecting with next week being homecoming they will perform really well. I think we’ll be OK.”
For more on Pahrump Valley football, see Trojans Football Notebook at pvtimes.com
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