Updated January 15, 2021 - 8:10 pm
The drought of high school sporting events in Nevada ended Friday.
Field No. 6 at Russell Road Recreation Complex hosted the flag football game between SLAM! Nevada and Amplus for the first NIAA-sanctioned competition since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, a 10-month layoff.
“The second the girls’ cleats hit the field, you wouldn’t think we were in a pandemic,” Amplus coach Ariana Grgas said. “The girls were visibly excited to be out there. They wanted to be there, and it was awesome to see SLAM!’s enthusiasm as well.”
SLAM! Nevada took advantage of an Amplus team playing its first-ever game, with Lizette Valenciano throwing five touchdown passes in a 31-0 victory. Sasha Ia and Oriana Israel each caught two of them and Sydney Cox one.
“I know the score doesn’t really show how strong Amplus was, but there’s so much going on with flag football that if you don’t have experienced girls, sometimes the score looks like that even if you’re playing strong,” SLAM! Nevada coach Taylor Velarde said.
SLAM! Nevada and Amplus are two of five schools playing varsity flag football this season. The other three are Pinecrest Academy Cadence, Pinecrest Academy Sloan Canyon and Moapa Valley.
Flag football is the only NIAA-sanctioned winter sport being played in Southern Nevada. Wrestling and basketball are on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s no-play list, and the bowling season was wiped out after the Clark County School District announced the cancellation of winter sports for its member schools.
Grgas and Velarde commended the parents who came out to support the teams, and SLAM! Nevada’s cheerleaders were on hand.
“It was crazy to even be out there,” Velarde said. “Our cheerleaders were behind the fence away from everybody, but they haven’t been able to cheer at a team event in a very long time, so they were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll stand out in the cold and cheer for you because we haven’t been able to do it for 10 months.”
Grgas said she saw frustration quickly set in for her players as the game got out of hand. She said they lacked confidence because they had never played the game, but playing the first one allowed them to see their strengths and weaknesses.
There were positives for Amplus, such as Saron Gezahegne and Kaitlyn Pruitt recording an interception apiece and “our linebackers were unbelievable,” Grgas said.
Grgas said she expects a better effort Thursday when Amplus meets Pinecrest Academy Cadence.
“The first thing they asked me after the game was, ‘When is our next practice?’” Grgas said. “For them to say that after losing the way we did is already a sign of growth.”