Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer take a closer look at this week's slate of high school football games, including rivalry contests between Las Vegas-Rancho, Chaparral-Eldorado and Basic-Foothill. The fellas also discuss Liberty's slow starts, Gorman's domination and the lack of quality long snappers. They will also have their weekly picks.
Eldorado High football coach Vernon Brown doesn’t hesitate endorsing his quarterback as the state’s best.
It’s just that JaQuorrey Williams, a three-year starter for the Sundevils, is also one of the state’s best-kept secrets. With Eldorado struggling for victories the past two years, Williams’ solid performances have gone virtually unnoticed.
Come Friday, that will likely change — at least for a few hours.
Eldorado will be in the spotlight when it plays host Chaparral in the annual “Cleat Game,” one the Las Vegas Valley’s longest and most storied rivalry games. Most weeks, it’s defending state champion Bishop Gorman or perennial powers Palo Verde and Las Vegas highs in the spotlight.
This week, however, it’s two of the area’s oldest schools. And that gives the 5-foot-10, 152-pound Williams a rare opportunity to shine.
“I haven’t seen any of the schools in the North play, but I can still honestly tell you he’s the best in the state,” Brown said. “If you put him on any other team, he would make them instantly better. They would be picked to win the league.”
Former Los Angeles Rams great Merlin Olsen in the 1970s donated one of his cleats for the game, which is bronzed and sits on a 2-foot base. Chaparral holds a 23-14 series edge, but Eldorado was victorious last year for its lone win of the season.
Keeping possession of the cleat is easier said than done. Eldorado (3-3, 2-2 Northeast) is in contention for a playoff spot, whereas Chaparral is in the middle of a 17-game losing streak.
That won’t matter come kickoff.
“It’s a rivalry game. You have to throw all of (the records) out the window,” Brown said. “This is like a playoff game for Chaparral when you consider the season they are having.”
Williams, who has passed for 785 yards and 11 touchdowns in six games, can beat you a variety of ways. He has passed for a touchdown in every game this season and has rushed for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m an athletic quarterback,” Williams said. “I can do anything you need me to do. I can stay in the pocket and make a pass or take off and make something happen. We just worked so hard in the off-season to win games like this.”
Senior receiver Brett VanOrden has started alongside Williams since they were sophomores. VanOrden’s 413 yards receiving and five touchdowns rank him as one of the state’s top wideouts.
“We have that connection,” VanOrden said. “We have a lot of confidence in each other. He knows when I adjust my routes.”
Williams — because of his size and the fact Eldorado receives little publicity — has received minor interest from colleges. He’s been contacted by Kansas and Oregon but has no scholarship offers.
For now, the only thing Williams is worried about is leading his team to a victory in their most important game of the year.
“This is my last year playing for the cleat,” Williams said. “I want to go out a winner.”
The players on both teams take pride in being part of the game. The schools have played since the 1970s, and even though both have struggled for victories in recent years, that can’t erase the history of this rivalry.
Eldorado had the cleat trophy at practice Wednesday as a subtle reminder of what’s at stake later in the week.
“The rivalry we have with Chap gets our blood pumping and our adrenaline flowing,” Eldorado lineman Roberto Higuera said. “I’m honored just to be part of it. This game has so much history, and we’re (fortunate) to be part of the history.”
This isn’t the only rivalry game of significance this week.
Unlike Eldorado, the bone — a cow bone introduced to the rivalry in 1957 — won’t make an appearance on the practice field this week. It is under tight security in the athletic director’s office at Las Vegas after it was stolen a few years ago.
The schools first started playing against each other in the 1930s.
“It’s a big festivity around here,” Las Vegas senior defensive lineman William Johnson said. “The teacher and other kids love it and ask us about it all week. I'm proud to be part of the history.”
Foothill opened in 1999 and took most of its students from Basic to create a natural rivalry. The schools are located two miles apart, on opposite sides of Boulder Highway.
Chaparral High School has seen better days.
Once among the top performing schools in the Clark County School District, Chaparral High is undergoing changes to counter dismal test scores and the lowest graduation rate in the district.
The campus located near East Flamingo Road and U.S. 95 is one of five turnaround schools not meeting the expectations outlined in No Child Left Behind.
Chaparral is now looking to clean up its reputation, touching every aspect of the school from restrooms to test scores.
Changes weren’t received well by students who openly protested the cuts to faculty and the new order that banned the use of cell phones and music players during the school day.
Under stricter rules, tardy students are locked out of classrooms, bathroom breaks during class time aren’t allowed and the lunch hour was pushed back to 1:40 p.m.
Superintendent Dwight Jones told students he’s not settling for half successes.
“Right now, 50 percent of the kids in this school don’t graduate high school. Is that acceptable to you? Think about that. Right now, some of the friends that you’re with aren’t going to graduate. Is that OK? That’s unacceptable to me. I think you guys ought to kick all of us out.”
- Year built:
- Principal (Year Hired):
- David Wilson (2011)
- Approximately 2,250
- School Report Card:
Compiled by Gregan Wingert