Friday night’s 42-14 homecoming victory over Sunrise Mountain was a textbook example of what Pahrump Valley football coach Joe Clayton wants to do.
Clayton’s philosophy is based on an offense that grinds out yardage and chews up the clock, limiting possessions for the more athletic teams they face. An offense that runs the ball 40 times for 365 yards, as the Trojans did Friday night, is doing exactly that.
And Sunrise Mountain had the weapons to make the big plays opposing coaches fear. Senior quarterback Tyree Hayes threw for 220 yards, and junior Link Rhodes made seven catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.
“That’s a perfect example,” Clayton said. “One team might have speed, they might not have a solid team, but they have good athletes who can totally change the game. They can score fast.”
But the Miners’ offense only found the end zone once — the other touchdown was on a fumble return off a mishandled snap — and that was during a running clock against a lot of Pahrump Valley backups in the final minutes.
Still, the fact that Hayes and Rhodes twice hooked up for gains of more than 40 yards shows why Clayton feels the Trojans need to play keep-away football. And while their offense might seem like basic, almost simple, football, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“Everybody has a job to do, and if one guy doesn’t do it, well that’s what’s tough about what we do,” Clayton said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to get the size up front the past few years. We’ve had the size and power we need to be able to run the ball.”
And the lead allowed the Trojans to spread carries around. In addition to Nico Velazquez’s 109 yards and Casey Flennory’s 94, Joey Koenig, Anthony Peralta, Andrew Avena, Antonio Margiotta, Dylan Grossell and Donnie Miller each had carries, totaling 20 for 162 yards. Ponder that: Taking out the Trojans’ top two rushers for the game, they still averaged more than 8 yards per carry.
“It was nice to get those other guys some runs,” Clayton said. “Those kids deserve it.”
It all starts up front
Even the best combination of power and speed in the backfield needs room to run, and Clayton has high praise for his offensive line.
“It all starts with those guys, the big guys up front,” he said. “They’re just so powerful and strong. It did help getting Caleb Sproul back this week … getting Caleb back adds another 260-pounder instead of a 215-pound kid. We’re just so big and strong up front.”
Clayton could rave about starters Sproul, Zack Trieb, Brandon Bunker, Armani McGhee and Jakob Landis for hours, but he did have something specific to say about Landis.
“He’s such an anchor,” Clayton said. “A lot of centers have a tough time with a nose right on top of them, but Landis does a great job.”
The bottom line is almost 1,000 yards rushing for the Trojans in just three games, with Velazquez already topping the 500-yard mark.
“Nico needs to be taking those guys out to dinner,” Clayton said. “It’s as simple as that. He’s got such lanes to run in.”
Wright steps up
There wasn’t much to complain about from the Trojans’ perspective Friday night — a mishandled snap returned for a Sunrise Mountain touchdown, a few big pass plays given up, a couple of unnecessary penalties — but one potential issue was senior quarterback Tyler Floyd missing the second half.
“It looks like he’s in concussion protocol,” Clayton said after the game. “It was right there before half. Once he’s in protocol, it’s up to them (medical staff). That’s why they take that baseline test. He’ll take a test, and when they get the results back they’ll see how severe it is and go from there.”
Although it means little medically, Floyd seemed to be in good spirits on the sidelines after the injury, following the action, conversing with backup Dylan Wright and chatting easily with teammates. If Floyd can’t go, it won’t change the offense much, but in a tight game the poise he showed during Pahrump Valley’s comeback attempt against Virgin Valley might be missed.
Not that it looked that way Friday night. Wright seemed perfectly at ease playing traffic cop in the Trojans’ jet offense, with no mistakes to show for his efforts.
“He hasn’t had that many reps with us,” Clayton said. “We had just brought him on varsity to play safety. We’ve been so fortunate with not having a true backup, and we knew we could always pull our JV quarterback up if somebody was to get hurt in the varsity game.
“We actually had Nico Velazquez taking snaps, and he would just run a wildcat is what we were planning on doing if Tyler got hurt.”
But Clayton has a great deal of confidence in Wright, and much of that comes from Wright’s successful freshman year on the wrestling mats. Wright, the Class 3A Southern Region runner-up at 145 pounds, showed his mettle during the Class 3A state championships in February, when he bounced back from a loss to three-time state champion Anthony Chavez of Spring Creek in the semifinals to record a dominant technical fall over Josh Abbott of Virgin Valley to claim third place.
“I’m a true believer in mental toughness, and it doesn’t get any more mentally tough than wrestling,” Clayton said. “You’re talking about a sophomore who’s a true, solid wrestler. We had no doubt mentally he would be ready.
“He comes in the second half, not knowing he’s going to play quarterback, and he stepped up, ran the offense like it was no problem. He didn’t have any botched snaps, no mistakes, just mental toughness. Dylan stepped up and did exactly what we thought he would do.”
Junior varsity on a roll
While the varsity Trojans are a few points away from being 3-0, the junior varsity Trojans really are 3-0. They also had an easy time against Sunrise Mountain, rolling to a 40-6 victory Thursday night in Pahrump.
This was after a 22-21 win over Lowry as the Buckaroos missed a last-minute field goal and an 18-14 win over Virgin Valley.
Naturally, Clayton is pleased the younger players are learning the Trojan way of doing things.
“The freshmen, it’s going to take a little while,” he said. “They didn’t really run our system in the youth league, so they’re taking a little extra time to learn our system. The sophomore boys, they’re learning our system really well.”
Tom Walker, Mike Colucci, Mark Duvall and Dan Nagle coach the JV team. “What we do is so basic and so simple, we just rep it so often they just get it down so well,” Clayton said. “And as long as everybody does his job … Vegas teams can rely on a couple of athletes, but it takes all 11 guys to run our offense.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes