Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 | 12:50 a.m.
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As Green Valley High prepared to take the field against Arbor View on Friday night, its players had more on their mind than just football. They were thinking about their injured teammate LaQuan Phillips, who they dedicated the game to.
While Phillips — recovering from a neck injury suffered in last week's game that left him temporarily paralyzed — never left the minds of his teammates, the Gators were stopped by a dominating Arbor View defense in a 28-10 loss.
"It was a lot different without him," Green Valley quarterback Nick Libonati said. "He would have done a great job against their offense. We had him in our hearts the whole game."
Players from both teams paid respect by wearing stickers emblazoned with Phillips’ jersey No. 3 on the back of their helmets.
Before the game, Arbor View presented members of Phillips' family with a basket of flowers and then lined up with Green Valley players for the National Anthem.
"We lined up together for the National Anthem because, at that moment, we were all one team," Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said. "It was no longer Green Valley versus Arbor View. We put his number on our helmet because we felt like he was a member of our team tonight."
Phillips' cousin, Shanee Lakes, said the support from both teams was overwhelming.
"LaQuan is in great spirits," Lakes said. "We're actually looking to him for more support than he is to us."
Phillips remains at Sunrise Hospital, where he has started to regain feeling in his fingers and toes. He suffered a bruised spine in Green Valley's game against Centennial last week that left him without any feeling from the neck down.
When it came time for this week's game without him, Arbor View's defense held Green Valley to just 134 total yards.
Arbor View also sacked Libonati five times for a combined loss of 32 yards.
Green Valley coach Matt Gerber said improving his offensive line is a priority before the Gators start Southeast Division play Sept. 19 against Foothill.
"We really have to work with the line and make some adjustments there," Gerber said. "When we can't run the ball or drop back to pass without a guy in our face, there's a problem."
The Gators got on the board first with a 37-yard field goal from Nolan Kohorst with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Arbor View running back Taylor Wooten gave his team the lead two possessions later with a 44-yard touchdown run.
Halfway through the second quarter, Green Valley's Kyle Larimer scored the Gators' only touchdown with a 94-yard punt return.
From there, Green Valley struggled to gather momentum on offense.
Arbor View's Demarlo Virgil and Wooten each scored in the second quarter with rushing touchdowns to make it 21-10 at the half.
Arbor View fullback and safety Gabe Toney caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to put the final at 28-10.
"They shut us down on all aspects," Gerber said. "We couldn't run the ball. I don't want to use LaQuan as an excuse at all. We played a good team and we weren't prepared."
Libonati led all passers with eight completions on 20 attempts for 110 yards, but the Aggies shut down the Gators' running attack, giving up only 33 yards.
"It was a huge win, and knowing that we're 3-0 gives us momentum going into our division schedule," Toney said.
The victory, Arbor View's third straight to open the season, matches its win total from its first three years of existence. The school started playing in 2005.