By Kirk Kern
There’s a minuscule chance that anyone on either the Virgin Valley High or Moapa Valley High football team will ever get a chance to play another game at Allegiant Stadium, home to the NFL’s Raiders and UNLV.
There’s zero chance that anyone from Mesquite will get to watch a game at Allegiant Stadium for the original $15 price on the ticket stub.
So, having the NIAA/One Nevada 3A football championship game at Allegiant Stadium was a win-win situation for both the players and their fans.
Sure it would have been nice to have played the game on a Saturday when the crowd may have been larger, but the tradeoff of playing at Allegiant Stadium was too great to argue.
And it all came together in about three weeks before the game were played. The schedule wasn’t even announced until nine days before the Thursday night quadruple-header.
“Well today, Nevada high school football and, really Nevada high school athletics and activities overall are the champions,” said Donnie Nelson, NIAA executive director. “And, of course, Allegiant Stadium is the star. To think that we had this turnout from the communities is just absolutely unbelievable. It blew away any expectation we had.”
Nelson said it was the Raiders who reached out about hosting the championship games. It was an offer the NIAA could not refuse.
“The Las Vegas Raiders rolled out the red carpet,” Nelson said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought we could get to this point with a partnership with Raiders. … this quickly.”
When making the schedule, the NIAA scheduled games involving northern Nevada games early in the day to allow those athletes to potentially get back home in time for school on Friday. That allowed the Virgin Valley-Moapa Valley game to be played in prime time.
And the community really showed up for this contest. The stands on both sides were packed with fans ready to cheer on their team. It was reported that almost 5,000 tickets were sold to watch the Bulldogs battle the Pirates.
That was the most sold for any game on the day. The next night, UNLV played against San Diego State at Allegiant Stadium. If it wasn’t for a large contingent of people coming in from San Diego to cheer the Aztecs to victory, the crowd count may been about the same for an NCAA Division I football team.
From the start, it looked like those making the trip from Mesquite would get the additional treat of having their team beat their rivals the state championship trophy.
The Bulldogs scored on a long touchdown pass from Gavin Brown to Jimmy Kelly on the first page from scrimmage. The Pirates drove down the field on their ensuing possession, but turned the ball over. The Pirates turned the ball over again on their next drive.
Virgin Valley’s Cameron Perkins made a great catch over a defender down he sideline and scored to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
But that would be the last time the Bulldogs would find the end zone as the Pirates went on to a 27-14 victory.
It’s always disappointing losing in a state finals game, and even more so when losing to your biggest rival. But at the end of the day, these high school students, coaches and fans will always remember the day they got to play in an NFL stadium in front of a crowd that rivals the local college.
Kirk Kern is publisher of Mesquite Monthly and Mesquite Local News.