After losing in last season’s state flag football title game, Virgin Valley High has been on a mission to get back to the big game again this season.
The Lady Bulldogs accomplished that goal by methodically rolling over Tech, 26-0, in Tuesday’s 3A state semifinal inside Wilson Stadium.
Virgin Valley, which lost to Cheyenne 7-0 in last year’s championship game, will get another crack at the Lady Shields when the two teams vie for the 3A state title Thursday at 4 p.m. at Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas.
“We’re glad to be back in the state championship again,” VVHS head coach Joey Bowler said. “Cheyenne is a really good team. They are big and fast.”
Cheyenne advanced by edging Del Sol Academy, 22-19, in Tuesday’s other semifinal contest.
“For us to be successful we’ve got to stop Cheyenne’s quarterback and score on offense,” Bowler said.
The quarterback Bowler is referring to is Eleseana Petterson. The sophomore has thrown for 2,639 yards and 26 touchdowns for the Lady Shields. Petterson is also fourth in the state in rushing with 1,514 yards and 18 TDs. She averages 17.4 yards per carry.
Virgin Valley counters with senior quarterback Kallie Graves, who has thrown for 2,559 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The Lady Bulldogs have the third leading rusher in the state in Katie Zuniga. The senior has rushed for 1.558 yards and 42 touchdowns. Sophomore Nikita Eskelsen has rushed for 1,317 yards and nine TDs giving the Lady Bulldogs a potent one-two punch.
Virgin Valley wasted little time in taking charge against Tech, scoring on its first three possessions to take a 20-0 lead midway through the second period.
Eskelsen, who missed last week’s quarterfinal victory over Sunrise Mountain, led the way for the Lady Bulldogs rushing for 107 yards on just 10 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
The first of Eskelsen’s three scores came on a 31-yard run two minutes into the contest. Graves completed the conversion pass to Madison Cheney to put Virgin Valley up 7-0.
Zuniga powered into the end zone from a yard out on Virgin Valley’s next possession and Graves passed to Zuniga for the extra point to up the advantage to 14-0 with 4:15 left in the opening period.
Eskelsen swept around the left side for 18 yards and a touchdown to increase the margin to 20-0 with 9:10 to play in the first half.
The Lady Bulldogs capped the scoring early in the fourth quarter on Eskelsen’s 13-yard touchdown run with 13:10 remaining.
Virgin Valley totaled 361 yards of total offense – 196 yards on the ground and 165 through the air. Graves completed 13-of-19 passes with Markell Ludvigson, Alyson Cook and Cheney having three receptions apiece.
“I thought we played well on both sides of the ball,” Bowler said. “I thought our defense played lights out.”
Ludvigson led the defense with seven flag pulls when Cheney and Makenzie Leishman had six each. Cheney also had a quarterback sack and made a diving pull near the goal line to thwart a Tech drive early in the third quarter.
“I think that Cheney and Leishman are the two best linebackers in our league,” Bowler said.