The high school football season hit the midway point last week, and it’s safe to say there haven’t been many like it.
It hasn’t been the normal season many were hoping for, but fall football is back. League play begins for Class 5A, 4A and 3A teams this week, which means the playoff picture will come into focus in the next five weeks.
But before that starts, let’s look back at highlights from the first five weeks.
Story of the first half
There has been one constant — change.
Most teams have had their season affected by any number of issues. COVID-19 testing and eligibility issues early in the season forced teams to play short-handed and, in some cases, cancel their games.
Most games at Clark County School District venues are being played at 6 p.m. instead of their usual 7 p.m. start time, a change that came a week after a fight that involved gunfire in the Desert Oasis parking lot.
“We’re handling it week to week,” Shadow Ridge coach Travis Foster said. “We’ve been shown things can change at any time, but we’re just happy we’re getting to play.”
Shadow Ridge experienced a cancellation two weeks ago when it was scheduled to play Palo Verde. The Mustangs are far from alone. There have been 100 football games played and 31 canceled involving teams in Southern Nevada, according to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
Three games that would have been canceled were saved because teams were able to find a new opponent, such as last week when Sierra Vista was swapped for Spring Valley to face Clark a day before the game.
Foster said the cancellations are out of everyone’s control, so he has the Mustangs focused on what they can control.
“As of right now, we have a game on Friday,” he said. “That could change in an hour or a day, but we’re getting ready for that.”
Team of the first half
There are a number of ways to go. Bishop Gorman played the most difficult schedule and was a minute from going 4-0 against out-of-state foes, including two games against teams ranked in the top 25 nationally. But the Gaels allowed Hamilton (Arizona) to score 18 points in the final 1:05 last week in a 25-24 loss.
That left the valley with six undefeated teams among those that have played more than one game — Silverado (4-0), Clark (4-0) and Mojave (3-0) in Class 4A, Moapa Valley (4-0) and Virgin Valley (4-0) in 3A and GV Christian (3-0) in 1A.
Moapa Valley hasn’t played the toughest of schedules, but nobody has been more dominant than the Pirates.
Moapa Valley’s closest game was a 48-12 win over Eldorado in the opener, and the Pirates have scored 48, 46, 54 and 42 in their games and outscored opponents 190-32. Their best win was a 54-14 win over a solid Boulder City squad.
Moapa Valley should be tested against Clark on Oct. 15, but the Pirates and Virgin Valley have a chance to be undefeated when they meet in the Hammer Game on Oct. 22, the final week of the regular season.
Player of the first half
Nineteen catches in four games isn’t an extraordinary total. But what Gorman wide receiver Zachariah Branch has done with them has been.
The junior speedster, who set a school record in the spring with a 10.33-second 100-meter dash, has more than 100 yards in all four games, is averaging 24.4 yards per catch and has scored four touchdowns.
One of those proved to be the game-winner in a 21-20 victory over Miami Central (Florida), and his 28-yard score in the fourth quarter last week appeared to put the game away before Gorman’s collapse.
Branch also has one of the best plays of the season, a zigzagging 70-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 35-7 win over Lone Peak (Utah). He was near the sideline and fielded the ball on a hop, gave some ground as he ran all the way across the field before cutting back inside and picking up blockers en route to the end zone. He also caught an 81-yard TD pass from Micah Alejado in the game.
Top 5 games
All games at 6 p.m., unless noted
Arbor View at Bishop Gorman, 7 p.m. — Arbor View (4-1), fresh off a come-from-behind 22-21 win over Desert Pines, is likely to encounter an unhappy group from Bishop Gorman in the Class 5A Desert League opener for both teams. Gorman (3-1) let a win slip away against Hamilton (Arizona) last week by allowing 18 points in the final 1:05 of a 25-24 loss.
Faith Lutheran at Liberty — Faith Lutheran (1-3) has struggled on offense, averaging 18.5 points, and begins Mountain League play facing a Liberty team that has allowed 27 points in its four games against in-state foes.
Clark at Las Vegas — This game could go a long way in deciding the Class 4A Mountain League title. Clark has cruised to a 4-0 record, and Las Vegas (2-2) has outscored its two 4A opponents by a combined 68-6.
Foothill at Palo Verde — Foothill (1-1) is a mystery team going into Class 5A Desert League play, having played only two games. Palo Verde has won three straight after an opening loss. The winner will take a huge jump toward making the playoffs.
Centennial at Desert Pines — Centennial (1-4) is a far cry from two years ago, when it beat Desert Pines 20-7 in the state semifinals. Desert Pines (2-1) is coming off a one-point loss to Arbor View, but maintains high expectations entering Class 5A Mountain League play.
Basic at Green Valley
Cheyenne at Cimarron-Memorial
Coronado at Bonanza
Desert Oasis at Sunrise Mountain
Shadow Ridge at Sierra Vista
Spring Valley at Mojave
Eldorado at Pinecrest Cadence, 7 p.m.
Moapa Valley at Rancho
Pahrump Valley at Boulder City, 7 p.m.
SLAM Nevada at Virgin Valley, 7 p.m.
Western at Valley
Democracy Prep at Needles, 7 p.m.
Lincoln County at Lake Mead, 7 p.m.
Class 2A vs. out of state
The Meadows at Silver Valley (Calif.), 7 p.m.
White Pine at Calvary Chapel, 7 p.m.
Beaver Dam at Beatty, 7 p.m.
Spring Mountain at Pahranagat Valley, 7 p.m.
Tonopah at Eureka, 7 p.m.
Canyon Spring at Legacy, 3 p.m.
Sierra Lutheran at Round Mountain, 1 p.m.