The Pahrump Valley Warriors earned the second seed in the 13U Division of National Youth Sports Nevada’s tackle football league, winning five of seven regular-season games.
If being a heavy favorite against the seventh-seeded Southern Highlands Junior Rebels, they didn’t show it during their first-round playoff game.
Jose Mendoza rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns, and Zachary Wilkerson added two scoring runs as the Warriors rolled to a 41-12 victory over the Rebels on Saturday at Liberty High School in Henderson.
About the only thing that slowed the Warriors were their own penalties, something coach Cameron Batangbacal said would be addressed before Saturday’s semifinals.
“We just have to clean up the mistakes, blocks in the back, illegal motions,” he said. “If we can clean that up, we’ve got a really good team all-around.”
They showed that early and often, scoring on all four of their first-half possessions. Mendoza opened the scoring when, after the Warriors forced a punt, he ran a sweep left for 64 yards to pay dirt. The conversion pass failed, and the Warriors were up 6-0.
On their next possession, the flags started flying, but the Warriors were slowed, not stopped. Despite two penalties for illegal blocks that created a third-and-35 situation, the Warriors scored when Wilkerson swept right for 30 yards on the final play of the first quarter.
“I think these guys can do anything if we get rid of those yellow flags,” Batangbacal said.
The Rebels looked like they would make a game with it, albeit briefly, when quarterback Jaxon Maxey lofted a 49-yard touchdown pass to an open Billy Ross behind the defense to pull them within 13-6. But Mendoza and the Warriors were having none of it, and he blasted up the middle and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone with a 54-yard touchdown.
Mendoza was succinct in summing up the team’s offensive success.
“Shed the blocks. Run the ball,” he said. He wasn’t kidding, as the Warriors racked up 274 yards rushing thanks to the combination of a strong offensive line and outstanding speed.
Mendoza capped the first-half scoring with a 3-yard run, but even then the yellow flags were flying as the Warriors were called for illegal motion on a successful 2-point run. No worries, as the Warriors simply ran it in again.
Taking a 27-6 lead into the second half, the Warriors’ defense joined in the scoring fun. On the Rebels’ first possession of the third quarter, Mendoza picked off Maxey on a fourth-down play and returned the interception 60 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game.
The Rebels got another touchdown pass from Maxey late in the third quarter, which was answered early in the fourth by Wilkerson with a 7-yard scoring run. Wilkerson’s 2-point run accounted for the game’s final points.
Wilkerson finished with 69 yards rushing for the Warriors, who will meet the North Las Vegas Mustangs (6-2) in the semifinals at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at Trojan Field at Pahrump Valley High School. Mendoza took a matter-of-fact approach to the second round.
“We’re going to focus on one game and work as a team,” he said. And if the game between teams with the same record gets tough, don’t expect panic on the Warriors’ sideline. “Tackling is our strength, and the way we pick up each other when we’re losing.”
Not that it happens very often.
Pahrump 9U, 11U teams fall
The fifth-seeded Las Vegas Rams blanked the fourth-seeded Pahrump Junior Trojans 25-0 in the first round of the 9U playoffs Saturday at Liberty High School. The Rams held the Trojans to just 59 yards of offense, 54 of them rushing yards gained by Zach Dockter. Keith Lawrence recovered a fumble for the Trojans.
Meanwhile, at Western High School, the 11U Junior Trojans also were shut out, falling 35-0 to the Falcons Hit Squad.
Although ousted from the playoffs, the 9U and 11U Junior Trojans will be playing as part of a tripleheader with the Warriors on Saturday at Pahrump Valley High School. The 11U team will face the North Las Vegas Mustangs at noon, followed by the Warriors at 1:45 p.m. and the 9U team facing the Henderson Raiders at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@PVTimesSports