On Saturday afternoon, the Pershing County High School football team were at home to play the Lincoln County Lynx in the NIAA 2A State Semifinals. The Mustangs won the game 37-20.
It was an evening of historical “lasts” for Lovelock.
Next fall, the Mustangs will bound onto an NFL Grade FieldTurf System instead of grass. It’s now Tom Donaldson’s turn to kick off the transformation of Joe Yanni Field.
Donaldson plans to have the field ready when the Pershing County Mustangs host their first home game of 2018, minus 12 graduating seniors.
Kris Jackson, Martin Cholico, Lupin Gomez, Lane Condie, Owen Bake, Ben and Scott Plimpton, Hunter Burrows, Ty Gentry, Jorge Rosas, Eric Wagner and Dylan Dragoman graduate this spring. They played the last home game of their high school years against the boys from Panaca.
And that’s not all. After this Saturday’s championship game, head coach Dave McLean and defensive coordinator Lance Condie hang up their whistles. They retire from coaching at the end of the 2017 season.
But this past Saturday afternoon the Mustangs focused on defeating the Lynx. It was the second round of the NIAA Northern 2A playoffs. A berth in the state championship was at stake. Both teams wanted the win.
A loss would cost Pershing County a shot at defending their state title. Last fall, they yanked it back from the Yerington Lions after three years of blood, sweat and probably tears.
However, only one team would advance to compete at Lowry High School this Saturday. The Mustangs grabbed the win, but the Lynx made them break a sweat.
Jayce Leyva started scoring for Pershing early in the first quarter. And he continued to light up the scoreboard for the rest of the game. The PCHS junior rushed 305 yards for three touchdowns.
“It was like he was on a different planet,” said McLean. “He was amazing. We played well right out of the gate.”
Pershing County quarterback Derek Sandusky agreed.
“Jayce was a huge part of our offense,” he said.
At halftime, the score was 16-0 in Pershing County’s favor, aided by a long interception return by Cholico. Lincoln County was driving for a touchdown, when the Lynx quarterback was about to be sack, he tossed the ball in the air and Cholico caught and returned for the touchdown. Erik Franco added a 31-yard field goal as time expired in the first half
Pershing County’s defensive line kept Lincoln County from scoring until midway through the third quarter. Lincoln County tried to make up for lost time. They put all 20 points on the board in the second half.
The Lynx closed the gap to 30-20 late in the fourth quarter, when the Mustangs closed out the game on a long run by Leyva.
“The Mustangs had about a six-minute lull in the third quarter,” said McLean. “It made things a little interesting, but the game was always in our control because our offensive and defensive lines controlled the line of scrimmage.”
“Our line had another great game,” agreed Sandusky.
Meanwhile, Needles and the Battle Mountain Longhorns competed at Needles High School. The firefight was tied at 22 halfway through the third quarter. It took overtime to decide the victor. Battle Mountain won 36-30.
The Battle Mountain boys are known for second-half rallies. They suffered their sole loss of the season against Pershing County on Oct. 6. At halftime, the Mustangs led 9-0. But the Longhorns bounced back to punch in 15 points in the third quarter. Ultimately, the Longhorns lost 16-15.
“It was exciting,” said McLean.” We’re looking forward to playing Battle Mountain again.”
“I’m proud of everyone on the team,” said Sandusky. “We feel good going up against the Longhorns, but it will be another tough one.”
Pershing County and Battle Mountain fight for NIAA 2A State Championship on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Lowry High School in Winnemucca.