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Trojans Football Notebook: Win and you’re in, lose and you’re out

There is no way to overstate how big Thursday night’s game between Valley and Pahrump Valley is. But I’ll try anyway.

It’s huge. It’s intergalactically paramount. Our future depends on the outcome. There has not been a more vital two hours in the history of mankind.

Right. And Melania married for love.

But in the context of the high school football season, this is huge. Really huge. Enormous implications.

A quick look at the standings will tell you why it’s huge. Pahrump Valley is 2-1 in the Sunset League, while Valley is 1-2. A Valley win leaves them tied, and obviously, the Vikings would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker in the standings.

But wait, that’s simple. What makes this so complicated?

The answer is Del Sol. The Dragons are 2-1, and they have Cheyenne left. Cheyenne, the only team in the Sunset actually having a good overall season. Cheyenne, the team that handed Pahrump Valley a 36-16 setback and pinned a 28-7 loss on Valley. Cheyenne, which is 7-1 overall, 3-0 in the Sunset. That Cheyenne.

Now the Dragons have talent, and with a bit of luck in the turnover department they could hang with the Desert Shields. But more than likely, Cheyenne will cap an undefeated Sunset League season and get a first-round bye in the playoffs.

A Dragons win would leave those two teams tied and give Del Sol the tiebreaker, relegating Cheyenne to the No. 2 seed. A Desert Shields win would leave the Dragons at 2-2, and, if Valley wins, put them in a three-way tie for second place with the Trojans.

According to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the first tiebreaker, logically, is head-to-head results among the tied teams. Del Sol defeated Valley and lost to Pahrump Valley, Pahrump Valley defeated Del Sol and would have lost to Valley, while Valley would have defeated Pahrump Valley and lost to Del Sol.

Step 2 in the tiebreaking procedure is margin of victory between the tied teams, with a maximum of 13 points per game. Del Sol is plus-8 thanks to a 43-27 win over Valley and a 32-27 loss to Pahrump Valley. That makes Pahrump Valley plus-5 and Valley minus-13 going into Thursday’s game. With the 13-point maximum, there is no way for Valley to catch Del Sol regardless of the score if they win Thursday night, so the Dragons would get the No. 2 seed and head-to-head would break the tie between the Vikings and Trojans, sending the Vikings to the playoffs.

But wait, there’s more. Suppose Del Sol and Pahrump Valley win, leaving those two tied with Cheyenne at 3-1. Because of their 36-16 win over Pahrump Valley, the Desert Shields are at the maximum plus-13 going into their game against Del Sol. The Trojans are at minus-8 (minus-13 for the Cheyenne game and plus-5 for the Del Sol game), with Del Sol at minus-5. This is pointless unless Del Sol wins, but margin of victory would become everything.

Say the Dragons beat the Desert Shields 30-21. That would put Del Sol at plus-4 and Cheyenne at plus-4. So basically if Del Sol wins by more than nine, they would get the top seed and leave Cheyenne and Pahrump Valley tied, which the Desert Shields would win on head-to-head, putting them at No. 2 and the Trojans at No. 3.

But, if Cheyenne defeats Del Sol and Pahrump Valley defeats Valley, it all gets so much easier. Cheyenne would be 4-0, Pahrump Valley 3-1 and Del Sol 2-2. That would give the Trojans the first-round home game against the No. 3 team out of the Sunrise, and who that is at this point is anybody’s guess.

We do know that if Moapa Valley beats Virgin Valley and Boulder City beats Sunrise Mountain, the Eagles, Bulldogs and Pirates would all be 4-1 and enjoy tiebreaking scenarios of their own. Should the opposite results occur, then Virgin Valley is in at 5-0 while Boulder City, Moapa Valley and Sunrise Mountain would all be 3-2.

Oh what the hell. In the latter, less likely, scenario, Moapa Valley would win the margin-of-victory tiebreaker, and as there wouldn’t be a tie without Sunrise Mountain beating Boulder City, the Miners would take the No. 3 seed — perhaps with a trip to Pahrump as a result — and the Eagles would be out.

In the former scenario, Boulder City is minus-4, Moapa Valley is minus-3 and Virgin Valley is plus-7, meaning the only way Virgin Valley would not get the No. 1 seed would be to lose to Moapa Valley by more than 10 points. (Step 3 gets more complicated, so if that happens, I’ll let the nice people at the NIAA do the work of breaking that tie.) If Virgin Valley wins or loses by fewer than 10 points, Boulder City would get the No. 2 seed because of its 15-12 win over Moapa Valley, which would be No. 3.

This might be a good time to mention that it was just a year ago that Sunrise Mountain, which would finish 3-7, defeated Virgin Valley, which would finish 7-3, in the next-to-last game of last year’s regular season, a game which knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs despite the gaudy record. That should put Boulder City on upset alert Thursday night.

Anyway, the simple part is this: If the Trojans win, they will be in the playoffs, and if Cheyenne also wins, they will be the No. 2 seed and get that home playoff game they so badly want. The rest, as they say, is just details.

A kick? Did we see a kick?

Yes, you did. The Trojans’ final point against Western came via Andrew Avena’s foot, as Pahrump Valley elected to go for an extra point after a touchdown for the first time this season.

“We should have been doing it earlier, again just getting extra practice out of it,” Trojans coach Joe Clayton said. “You never know, down the road, and Andrew’s got the leg for it.”

It had been a while since Avena’s leg had been called upon, more than a year, in fact. The last time the Trojans went for the PAT rather than go for a 2-point conversion was Oct. 12 of last year against … what a surprise … Western. Avena kicked two PATs that day and finished with 9 points kicking for the season.

New faces get some PT

Playing Western is nothing more than a controlled scrimmage — more on that later — for any Class 3A opponent. The Warriors didn’t score a point in any of their seven games against 3A schools, scoring only against Class 2A Calvary Chapel in a 21-0 win over a team that is winless with two games remaining.

But that situation allows teams to be quite liberal with playing time, and Pahrump Valley was no exception.

“We had Tanner Hanks, the first time our staff has brought up a freshman to varsity,” Clayton said. “He started at nose for us. We still had Big Country, Jonathan Rios (who was called up the week before), and Zack Cuellar started at linebacker for us and didn’t come off the field.”

“In the second quarter, we had mostly second-stringers,” noted senior Kenny Delker, who rushed for 92 yards and 2 TDs against the Warriors.

For younger players, varsity time is invaluable. Even against Western.

So about Western …

Can we be honest here? Western football is an abomination. A complete embarrassment. A borderline disgrace.

And I’m not talking about the absolute incompetence on the football field, although we should do that first.

On the field, Western has not had a competitive team since before I heard of Pahrump. (To be fair, almost everything ever happened before I heard of Pahrump.) The Warriors have been stinking up the field for years.

Back in 2007, the Warriors went 8-3, 5-1 in the Class 4A Southwest League to finish second to Bishop Gorman, and they defeated Mojave in the first round of the playoffs before losing the following week to Palo Verde. Since then, the Warriors’ program has been that rotting smell in the basement of a serial killer’s house.

This year’s 1-7 (again, the one win over a winless Class 2A Calvary Chapel team) was preceded by 0-9 last year, a season in which they “held” their opponents to 461 points. They were 1-8, 0-5 in 2017 (losing eight straight after an opening win over hapless Rancho); 0-9, 0-5 in 2016; 0-9, 0-7 in 2015; 0-9, 0-7 in 2014 (giving up an almost incomprehensible 539 points — almost 60 per game); 0-9, 0-5 in 2013; 1-8, 0-5 in 2012 (the win was a forfeit against Shadow Ridge, a team they lost to 58-6 on the field); 0-9, 0-8 in 2011 (best showing was a 13-7 loss to Pahrump Valley); 3-6, 2-6 in 2010 (wins over Sunrise Mountain, Sierra Vista and Pahrump Valley); 1-8, 1-7 in 2009 (yes, the one win was against Pahrump Valley, 20-14); and 2-7, 2-5 in 2008 (beating Pahrump Valley and Durango).

What does all of that tell us? Well, for starters, Pahrump Valley has had some really bad football teams. After beating the Trojans in the final game of the 2010 season, the Warriors did not win another game on the field until the opener in 2017. And that win back in 2010 was the third consecutive victory for the Trojans over the Warriors.

But the second thing it should tell us is how far the Pahrump Valley football program has come. The Trojans went from being the only team the Warriors could beat to one that routinely stomps all over them. After getting their first win over the Warriors in 2011, they had another competitive gme in 2012, beating Western 21-8. Since then, it has been the gridiron equivalent of the United States invading Grenada (yes, it happened. look it up, kids), with Pahrump Valley winning by an average score of 40-6, including four games in which the Trojans topped 60 points.

This is not a school-wide issue. The Warriors’ boys soccer team sits in first place in the Sunset League at 11-0 with a 14-1-1 overall record. The girls soccer team is in second place in the Sunset at 6-2, 12-5-1 overall. But football is so bad that decent athletes at the school won’t even come out for the team, a fact verified by a young man raising money for the school’s boys basketball program — nothing special but not a total doormat, either — outside a Las Vegas Walmart last week.

Now, normally it would be in poor taste to mock a bunch of high school kids, no matter how bad their football program has been for how many years. But the Warriors are classless, showing absolutely no respect for themselves, their opponents and the game. And when you can’t win or lose with grace, you should be called out on it. You can’t on the one hand babble endlessly about the “lessons” of high school sports and on the other ignore it when none of them appear to be implemented.

Before the game even started, the Warriors were mocking the Trojans in a way which went beyond the good humor a rival might use. During the game, there was a constant barrage of yapping from the Warriors, as almost every play brought some kind of smack talk. This from a team that has not scored a point against any of its seven Class 3A opponents.

The officials noticed. The Warriors were flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct and almost begged for more, and at one point an official yelled loud enough for the sidelines to hear: “I’m not going to tell you again! I said it to the guy over there, and I said it to the guy over here. SHUT IT UP!”

In a bit of irony, the Warriors went begging for a flag on a play when Pahrump Valley lineman Caleb Sproul dared keep blocking until the whistle blew. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad to watch several Western players plead their case to the referee, who, as you might imagine, was not particularly interested in hearing it.

The fact that such behavior is tolerated — possibly condoned? — means the Western coaching staff, and by extension their administration, doesn’t care that the athletes, representatives of their school to the other schools on their schedule, do not have the slightest clue on sportsmanship, or even proper public behavior. The clownishness falls on the coaches. If they fear kids will quit the team if they try to enforce a modicum of discipline, so what? The players they have can’t play the game anyway.

Classless does not begin to describe the performance, and that was in a game in which they gave up the fewest points in any of their losses. It was just a year ago that the Trojans beat them 66-0.

Running up the score is something I hate to see, and the fact Pahrump Valley did not score during the second half is, in a way, to the Trojans’ credit. But against Western, running up the score until the scoreboard blew a fuse would be entirely appropriate, if only because you certainly can’t take each player individually and rub his face in the crappy field they use.

Perhaps it’s time somebody — the school’s principal, the Clark County School District, a group of concerned parents — steps up and demands better. You might not be able to demand wins, but you sure can demand a coach who will instill in his players a sense of pride and self-respect. It would be a nice start.

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