The rival 3A high schools began competing for the de facto trophy in the 1950s but had to stop in the 1970s when the prank of stealing the hammer from the winning team became too prevalent. The hammer wasn’t reintroduced until the two schools’ principals reached an agreement in 2007.
Although some may contest Lewis’ account, the Moapa Valley coach said he heard Virgin Valley refused to return the hammer after stealing it for the final time.
Perhaps the hammer is making up for lost time with Moapa Valley now. The Pirates blanked the Bulldogs, 18-0, Friday night to win their sixth straight in the series.
“It’s been a rivalry our whole life,” said Moapa Valley senior Jake Rebman. “We want to play in this game our whole life. We’re pretty close. We know a lot of the kids from their school. It’s just a big game. It’s exciting, and it’s more exciting when we shut them out.”
The Moapa Valley offense played sluggishly and provided less than half of the team’s points, but circumstances matter little in a game of this much importance, as long as a victory comes at the end. The Pirates defense assured that much.
The Bulldogs gained only 34 yards all night. Rebman was involved in a multitude of tackles and had a sack early.
“For him to respond like that is huge,” Lewis said, noting Rebman had an off night in a loss to Legacy. “He got singled out pretty good in the film room last week. I’m pretty happy for a senior captain to step up like that and take responsibility for his actions and the way he played the last game.”
Virgin Valley’s first drive ended disastrously when Rebman took advantage of an errant snap and blocked a punt. The ball bounced into the end zone where defensive lineman Kris Postma recovered it for a touchdown.
Moapa Valley had plenty of defensive highlights, too. Austin Prisbrey intercepted a pass in the first quarter. Pressure from Matthew McDermand caused a safety late in the game when the referees flagged Virgin Valley quarterback Humberto Urias for intentional grounding.
Moapa Valley kept Urias, Virgin Valley’s usual star, off balance all night. Urias finished 4-for-14 for 16 yards passing and had 14 carries for 12 yards.
“He’s a good player, but we shut him down,” Rebman said. “He did alright, made some plays, but we did what we wanted to do — on defense.”
Rebman said there was much work to be done on offense. Other than 99 tough rushing yards from Conner Mortensen on 22 carries, Pirates miscues littered the evening.
They had two touchdowns on separate possessions called back for penalties, failed to convert on a fourth-and-two from Virgin Valley’s 23-yard line and didn’t score late, despite having the ball first-and-goal inside the one-yard line.
That’s the short list.
“Our kids are going to be disappointed about this performance,” Lewis said. “We didn’t do the things we’ve been doing. We felt like we’d be more physical. Offensively, we just couldn’t find that extra guy. There was always an extra guy that we didn’t account for.”
But Moapa Valley will keep the hammer for now. The two teams will likely meet again in the playoffs if Moapa Valley defeats Boulder City in two weeks.
Virgin Valley hasn’t beaten Moapa Valley since a 34-14 win during the 2007 regular season. The streak is meaningful to everyone in the community because of the game’s history.
Lewis, for example, played in the game as a high school student as did four of his brothers, his father and his son.
“We span three generations, and it’s the same way over there across the field,” Lewis said. “It’s a bunch of Jensens, Leavitts, Hugheses — we’re all related to each other. All the guys in our valley work over in their valley and vice versa. It’s bragging rights.”