The sight of Pahrump Valley junior Anthony Margiotta on crutches at practice Monday morning was as disappointing as it was expected.
Margiotta is a tough kid and easy to root for, but when he was lying on the grass in obvious pain after the Trojans recovered a fumble to end a long Virgin Valley drive, it was difficult to imagine seeing him back on the field any time soon.
Margiotta being Margiotta, when he finally got to his feet, he instinctively turned to join his teammates in the huddle on offense despite a very serious limp.
“It’s my team. I’ve got to help them,” Margiotta said of his attempt to keep playing. “It’s my brothers on the field, and I’ve got to get out there.”
Admirable? Yes. Nutty? Same answer. You will see few things more simultaneously inspiring and insane as a player hobbling on one leg heading onto the field for the next play. But that just wasn’t going to happen.
“They said I damaged my (medial cruciate ligament), but they’re not sure if it’s torn or not,” said Margiotta, who was scheduled to see a doctor Tuesday. “I’ll probably be out for a couple weeks, maybe four, try to get back for league.”
The Trojans open defense of their Sunset League championship Oct. 4 at Cheyenne.
Margiotta said the pain was “9 or 10” immediately after the hit. “I tried getting up to finish the game and help my team, but I couldn’t.”
He did adapt quickly to using crutches, and he was deftly moving around Trojan Field during Monday morning’s practice. The idea of sitting in a golf cart with his leg up probably never occurred to him.
“I’ve been practicing for the last couple of days,” he said of the crutches. “Gotta do it. Gotta be out here.”
If it’s necessary, surgery is not new to Margiotta, who had his shoulder operated on last season. But Monday morning he wasn’t quite ready to concede that was going to happen.
“It feels like it’s torn, but I’ve got to think positive.”
If losing their leading rusher wasn’t bad enough, the Trojans also lost Armani McGee, who was helped off the field with what was presumed to be a dislocated knee.
“It sounds more severe than I guess it was, because apparently it popped back in,” Trojans coach Joe Clayton said. “We heard it pop during the game.”
McGhee missed the opener because of a foot injury.
“I think Armani will be OK,” said Clayton, acknowledging his lineman was unlikely to be available this week against SLAM Academy. “Obviously, two extremely key injuries for us.”
Less serious but more dramatic to the eye was a hit sophomore Henry Amaya took late in the game. On third-and-16 from the Pahrump Valley 28, quarterback Dylan Wright looked for Amaya over the middle. Amaya took a clean hit just as the ball arrived — he never did get a grip on it — but, clean or not, Amaya was a defenseless receiver in that situation and the Trojan sideline screamed for a call that never came.
“It would have been a 15-yard personal foul, which changes everything,” Clayton said. “It was a great hit because it wasn’t helmet-to-helmet; it was a clean hit to the chest, but it was clearly a defenseless receiver.”
As to the effect on Amaya?
“I think he’s OK, just some bruised ribs,” Clayton said. “Now, as a staff, we’re extremely concerned about our injuries. If Jacob Lopez is healthy” — the lineman suffered a high ankle sprain against Lowry — “this week we have 21 varsity boys. If he’s not, we have 20 varsity boys that are going to play Friday night, which at our level is unheard of.”
Clayton drew out the words “20 varsity boys” for emphasis, and it’s clear the situation is serious.
“He’s iffy,” Clayton said of Lopez. “What it is with him, and it’s going to be the same with Armani, is conditioning. They’re going to be able to recover from their injuries, but you can’t condition when you’re not 100 percent. That’s going to be the issue there.”
Winless but not hopeless
For the second year in a row, Pahrump Valley opened the season 0-2. The games against Lowry were virtually identical, while Virgin Valley took a 20-0 lead both years. But last year the Trojans rallied to within two. This year, the closest they got to the Bulldogs’ end zone before the game’s final play was the Virgin Valley 43-yard line just before halftime.
But Clayton keeps things in perspective and knows what his players were up against.
“We tried to tell the boys, our nonleague schedule is not easy,” he said. “We were trying to get them to understand that our record’s 0-2, but we are improving. You play a weaker team, what do you get out of that? You get the win on your record, but are you improving? You’re not. Our nonleague schedule is probably one of the toughest we’ve had the past few years.”
In the case of Virgin Valley, the Bulldogs have owned the Trojans for years. Virgin Valley leads the series 43-7, has won 24 consecutive games against the Trojans and has not lost to Pahrump Valley since 1993. But the Bulldogs seem especially tough this year, with 39 players on the roster, most of whom dressed Friday night.
Quarterback Kyle Sudweeks, who proved to be an effective game manager, was playing in place of the injured Meb Hollingshead, who riddled the Trojans for 248 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s game in Pahrump. But quarterback is not the only place the Bulldogs have depth, and it showed.
“There’s a dozen more boys, and that makes a difference,” Clayton said of Virgin Valley’s roster. “One of the big things was they had size but also numbers. Their two D-tackles every couple of plays would rotate with two fresh bodies. And I think all four of those boys were a good 260 (pounds) or more apiece. It’s pretty nice to be able to have two D-tackles do a couple of plays then come off the field, going against our boys who don’t come off the field.
“We were very aggressive, but we were outmanned. We run hard and we’re physical, but they were pretty big and physical, and that’s why there was a stalemate on the line of scrimmage. We had to fight and scrap for every yard we got.”
Virgin Valley really did make the Trojans fight and scrap for every yard, and they didn’t get many of them. Pahrump Valley finished the game with just 122 total yards, all on the ground. And the shutout was the first for the Trojans since Sept. 29, 2017 in a 28-0 home loss to Desert Pines.
Of flags and fans
The missed call on Amaya wasn’t the only one that irked Clayton.
“There was another missed call,” he said. “I think it was third-and-15, and they ran that screen to Delano. That was an illegal play, too, because number 75 was about 15 yards downfield. That would have put them at fourth-and-long, and they ended up scoring after that.”
Actually, it was a second-down pass play that put the Bulldogs on the Trojans’ 23. Coincidentally, the play before that, an 18-yard keeper by Sudweeks, was called back because of an illegal block. Another penalty would have put Virgin Valley in a tough spot. Instead, Delano ran over several would-be tacklers on the next play to put the Bulldogs on the Pahrump Valley 3, and Sudweeks took it from there for a 12-0 lead with 4:34 to go in the second quarter.
Missed calls made for some amusing moments in the stands. At one point in the game, there were plenty of groans coming from the Virgin Valley side of the field after the Bulldogs didn’t get a call they wanted against the Trojans. Someone from the Pahrump Valley side yelled out, “Stop whining and just play football.”
OK, there’s a couple of things wrong with that. One, of course, was that the Bulldogs already were playing football, pretty good football at that. The other? No surprise. When the Trojans didn’t get a call a bit later, the same voice could be heard “whining.”
Now, an entire column — actually a series of columns, maybe a series of books — could be written about the misinformed, obnoxious and just plain stupid things you hear from the stands in all sports from fans of all schools. But in this case, it’s more a matter of realizing that the situation one side finds itself in likely will happen to the fans on the other side before the clock runs out.
Keep it in mind.
Fields of nightmares
The news last week that three Clark County School District fields — at Clark, Rancho and Valley high schools — are unfit to play on came as no surprise to Clayton, whose teams have played on all of them, including two last season.
Pahrump Valley’s regular season finale last year was at Valley, and the Trojans came from behind with a late touchdown to wrap up the Sunset League championship and a perfect 5-0 league season. A few weeks earlier, they were on Rancho’s field to play Democracy Prep, where the Trojans pulled away after a tight first half.
“Valley’s and Rancho’s fields were very similar,” Clayton said. “We played on Clark’s years and years ago, and I imagine it’s even worse. We’ve played on all three of those turf fields, and they’re horrible.
“Rancho’s is so beaten down that the rubber that’s supposed to fall in between that makes the turf look more realistic, well Rancho’s was so flat there was nowhere for the rubber to go. It would pile up. You would step on a pile of rubber and slip.”
The field was not a problem Friday night in Mesquite, as Virgin Valley plays on one of the nicest plots of grass in Clark County that’s not part of a golf course. And when it comes to turf, Boulder City has no such issues.
”Look at Boulder City,” Clayton said. “They have that brand-new field, that cork field, and Boulder City is in the Clark County school district. How do you pick and choose who gets what? I don’t know how that goes.
“Boulder’s field has cork, and that absorbs water. It could make it more humid, but it’s not as hot. It’s not black rubber like ours.”
Speaking of Trojan Field’s turf, Clayton’s players might be a bit spoiled playing on it.
“We really notice turf because ours is so new,” he said. “They’re talking about replacing it, but it’s only about 8 years old.”
Evan Wilson Stadium has one of the better scoreboards around, including a message board that was basically ignored by Virgin Valley fans throughout the game … Despite two key — and relatively obvious — penalties not being called, Virgin Valley was called for more penalties (nine vs. five) for more yards (75 vs. 50) than Pahrump Valley … Wright was sacked four times but seemed unfazed by it. “It’s OK. They don’t hit hard,” he said after the game … Seeing all of the green T-shirts in Mesquite with “VV” on them brought to mind the vestal virgins in Mel Brooks’ “The History of the World Part I,” as Madeline Khan refers to her attendants as VVs. Or is that just me?