Pirates face Fallon’s momentum | NevadaAppeal.com

Pirates face Fallon’s momentum

Mike Sciandra

Moapa Valley is defending its title in the state championship game against Churchill County Saturday at noon in Reno. This marks the 10th time the Pirates have gone to the finals in Brent Lewis' 14 years as head coach, and could be their fourth title victory since the first in 2007.

"We've had a terrific year even though we got off to kind of a slow start with graduating so many seniors last year," Lewis said. "I would say we've really evolved as a football team. We had an entirely new offense and defensive line so those took some time to come around."

Nate Cox took over as the starting quarterback for the Pirates this year. Lewis said though Cox struggled in the first half of the season, he has become a leader on the team.

"At times he's had to scale back on offense early and as the season has gone along, we've been able to open up," Lewis said. "He's progressed and gotten a lot better."

Cox has passed for 1,474 yards, rushed for 108 yards, passed for 17 touchdowns and rushed for three touchdowns this season.

Alongside Cox, Lewis said that pretty much everything the Pirates do is based around wide receiver R.J. Hubert. He is third in rushing yards at 604 behind Sterling Simmons at 742 and Trystin Deal leading the team at 782. Hubert leads these three and the team in rushing touchdowns at 13 for the season, and leads the team in total touchdowns as well at 29. One of the themes of winning teams this season has been for kickoff and punt returns run back for touchdowns, Lewis said Hubert has returned four or five kickoffs for touchdowns, which has led to many teams avoiding kicking to the Pirates all together as he said.

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"Teams can make their game plan to stop him," Lewis said, "but his ability to do so many different things makes him very hard to stop.

"I wouldn't really categorize us as a big-play team I'd say we're more of a team that likes to get first downs. We plow along. We don't get big plays, for the most part, and we have to be methodical in our way down the field. That has been a very good strength for us since it's given us ball control, keeps the other team's offense off the field too."

The last time the Pirates met Fallon was on a playoff game in 2013, losing to the Wave, 34-24.

"It was a pretty crazy game, back and forth," Lewis said. "We had our chances to win that game but I thought Fallon capitalized on a lot of those key turnovers which ended up making the difference. I see an eerie resemblance of this year's team and that year's team; defensively and offensively, they haven't changed much either, but I'm very impressed with what I've seen on film."

When asked about the Pirates passing game against the Wave's, Lewis said he wouldn't say that his team throws as well as Fallon, but that this would not slow down his strategy.

"They have weapons that they can throw to but (Connor Richardson) is the key for sure," Lewis said. "He can throw it on a line, right up the seem, he can read the defense, he's the real deal. When his guys are covered, he can tuck it and take off running, so defensively I think stopping him is the key to stopping Fallon. If we keep in the pocket and of course cover, we can find a way to get him on the ground. That's going to be key."

Defensively, Lewis said that the Pirates mix it up between odd and even fronts and have emphasized concentration on their defensive secondary where he believes he has seen improvement.

"I think we've been a little bit of a "bend, but don't break" defense," Lewis said. "By making teams put more and more plays together, they may make a mistake in our favor that we can capitalize on, and that's kind of been our strategy."

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