Two years ago, Clark was the surprise team in the valley.
The Chargers had won a total of four games in the three seasons leading up to 2019 and not much was expected from them, especially after a loss to Virgin Valley in their opener.
But Clark won its next five games and edged Desert Oasis in the final seconds of its second-to-last game of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in six years.
The fact that the Chargers were playing meaningful games down the stretch was a big difference from the previous few seasons.
“The mentality of the program is to not settle on our success but to try to build off that,” said Clark first-year coach Deumaine Reeder, an assistant with the 2019 team. “The kids see what we’ve done in the past and where we’ve come from, so that has paid off because the kids have known the program’s struggles over the years. They don’t want to repeat that.”
Clark reached the playoffs in the old Class 4A and remained in 4A under the new alignment, which created 5A. The Chargers are 6-1 and have largely been dominant with the exception of a 41-0 loss to Las Vegas. Even with that loss, Clark has outscored its opponents 242-68 this season, a leap from two years ago when five of its six wins came by one score.
“The biggest thing for us is we’ve got some guys who were sophomores then and are now seniors,” Reeder said. “And we’re standing on our motto of the year ‘FINAO, or failure is not an option.’”
Reeder said Clark is trying to build its program by watching what successful ones such as Bishop Gorman and Liberty do.
If things keep going the way they are, the Chargers might be a model for other programs looking for a turnaround.
Eldorado, which also benefited from the new alignment, going from the old 4A to the new 3A, could be one of those teams. The Sundevils are 3-4, but that win total is the school’s best since 2014, and they won their first two 3A Desert League games. A playoff spot is a near certainty, and the Sundevils are in position to potentially claim a league title with tough games against Pahrump Valley and SLAM Nevada remaining.
“It means the world to these guys,” Eldorado coach Henry Jackson said. “The seniors were afraid they were going to miss out on their senior year, too, so the fact that these games late in the year have meaning is huge.”
The Sundevils put themselves in position atop the league standings by rallying past Boulder City 15-14 two weeks ago. They trailed 14-0, and Boulder City was looking for another touchdown but was stopped on the 1-yard line.
But Jackson and Eldorado got a rude awakening about the ups and downs of building a program last week, when it followed up the emotional win over Boulder City with a 34-7 loss to Rancho. Fortunately for the Sundevils, that was a nonleague game, so it didn’t take away from their postseason aspirations.
“We just let them know when you don’t prepare for victory, you put yourself in position for failure,” Jackson said. “Last week’s practice schedule was rough and shoddy at best. We had a day off for staff development day and picture day for the whole school Thursday, our walk-through day. But it’s a learning experience, and the blame is on me for that game. We have to have them prepared.”
Top five games
All games at 6 p.m. Friday, unless noted
Foothill at Canyon Springs — Foothill had its third game of the season canceled last week and remains one of two Class 5A Desert League unbeatens. Canyon Springs is coming off a last-second win over Palo Verde and could clinch a playoff berth with a win.
Arbor View at Legacy, 9 a.m. Saturday — Anything can happen in a rivalry game such as the Battle of the Bulls, and that’s especially true this season with an abnormal start time. Arbor View’s game against Foothill was canceled last week. Legacy hasn’t scored more than 18 points in a game.
Durango at Las Vegas — Las Vegas clinches the 4A Mountain League title with a win. Durango needs a win or Del Sol loss to Basic to clinch a playoff berth.
Clark at Moapa Valley — Undefeated Moapa Valley has been the top 3A team all season, but it will have its hands full with a 4A Clark team that is 6-1.
Desert Pines at Faith Lutheran — Both teams are 1-1 in 5A Mountain League play, so the winner probably clinches a top-three finish. Desert Pines will need to focus on this game and not get caught looking ahead to next week’s meeting with Liberty.
Desert Pines at Faith Lutheran
Foothill at Canyon Springs
Green Valley at Centennial
Palo Verde at Bishop Gorman, 7 p.m.
Bonanza at Sierra Vista
Cheyenne at Desert Oasis
Cimarron-Memorial at Chaparral
Coronado at Spring Valley
Del Sol at Basic
Durango at Las Vegas
Shadow Ridge at Mojave
Silverado at Sunrise Mountain
Class 4A vs. 3A
Clark at Moapa Valley, 7 p.m.
Pahrump Valley at Eldorado
Western at Virgin Valley, 7 p.m.
Democracy Prep at Lincoln County, 7 p.m.
Lake Mead at Needles, 7 p.m.
The Meadows at White Pine, 7 p.m.
GV Christian at Beaver Dam
Mineral County at Beatty, 7 p.m.
Round Mountain at Pahranagat Valley, 7 p.m.
Sandy Valley at Indian Springs, 7 p.m.
Spring Mountain at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Arbor View at Legacy, 9 a.m.