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The 80-mile drive down Interstate 15 between Mesquite and Las Vegas can be a long, boring trip but Thursday night the Mojave football team enjoyed every second of it.
The bus ride through the desert was an hourlong party for the Rattlers, who were returning home after a 46-20 win over Virgin Valley to clinch a spot in the state tournament for the first time in school history.
“There was a so much excitement,” Mojave coach Abraham Gonzalez said. “We brought a huge crowd and the kids were going crazy.”
Junior running back Tawee Walker had 220 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns to lead Mojave, which jumped out to a 20-7 halftime lead.
“Tonight was a showdown between the top two backs in the 3A Southern Division, and Tawee made a statement,” Gonzalez said.
The other back Gonzalez referred to is Virgin Valley’s Jayden Perkins, who had 170 yards and two touchdowns.
“He was our focus and we knew that if we contained him we would have a chance to win,” Gonzalez said.
Mojave quarterback Xavier DeLong threw a pair of touchdown passes, and running back Quincy Smith pitched in 75 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
John Harper ran a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown for the Rattlers as well.
It was the Rattlers’ second win this season in Mesquite. They beat Virgin Valley 26-0 on Sept. 8.
“It really shows us where we are because Virgin Valley is a good team,” Gonzalez said. “For us to do it twice, especially in a playoff game, it recharges us. We’re hoping the players party themselves out on the bus ride so they go to sleep when they get home.”
The two long bus trips have been enjoyable for Mojave, and they helped prepare the Rattlers for an even longer one. They will head to Northern Nevada for a state semifinal matchup with Fernley on Saturday.
“That was one of the motivations that fueled the kids,” Gonzalez said. “They really wanted to go up north and do something that (Mojave) has never done before.”