December 16, 2013 - 11:22 pm
With Mat McDermand clogging the middle at defensive tackle and Justin Hughes flying across the field to make tackles at linebacker, it was nearly impossible for teams to move the ball effectively against Moapa Valley this season.
For both players’ effort, they were recently recognized statewide by coaches. McDermand was named Lineman of the Year and Hughes won Defensive Player of the Year on the Division I-A all-state football team.
“We wouldn’t have the success without either one of them,” Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said. “It was a pleasure for me to coach them.”
Hughes broke a school record with more than 150 combined tackles and had a team-leading five interceptions. He was second on the team with 4 1/2 sacks and anchored a defense that surrendered 11.8 points per game and had three shutouts.
“Justin was captain for us,” Lewis said. “He had a knack for finding the little seams. Without Justin on the field defensively, we were a lot weaker of a team. There was a game or two where he was down and other guys had to step up. It was very noticeable when he wasn’t on the field.”
But to say Hughes did it by himself would be inaccurate.
Hughes benefited greatly from the mismatch McDermand, his 6-foot-6-inch, 260-pound teammate, created directly in front of him on defense.
“There were so many teams double- and triple-teaming Mat, (and) that allowed Justin to make a lot of tackles,” Lewis said. “When Mat’s not on the field, there’s a gaping hole in the middle. He could literally play three gaps by himself.”
McDermand, who also played right tackle on offense, made an oral commitment to UNR this week. It is unknown whether McDermand will play offense or defense at the next level, but his coach knows he’ll be successful regardless.
“They always ask about his character and how he is in the classroom,” Lewis said. “He’s the kind of kid that colleges are looking for. I have nothing but good things to say about him.”
Moapa Valley teammates running back Jared Repp and defensive lineman Sam Rebman were first-team all-state selections. Repp and Rebman also made the second team as a linebacker and offensive lineman, respectively. They were joined by Tyler Zobrist (tight end) and Jeremy Waite (cornerback).
The Pirates, who finished 11-1, fell just short of reaching the state final for the eighth straight season by losing to Churchill County 34-24 in the state semifinals.
Lewis said he was extremely proud of all his players but was still disappointed his team couldn’t reach the title game.
“We were a really good team this year,” Lewis said. “We felt like we were the team to beat and we kind of let it get away. We were definitely disappointed that we weren’t able to be in the finals. It was just a great group of senior kids.”