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November 21, 2014

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Gorman football again the team to beat, but Arbor View and others closing the gap

Preseason top 10 rankings: Gorman football again the team to beat, but Arbor View and others closing the gap

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Sam Morris

Arbor View High School football players Steven Burns, Jordan Mock and Chris Rodriguez.

Sun's preseason high school football rankings

Bishop Gorman High School football players Nick Strehlow, Ben Guida and Jelani Walls. Launch slideshow »
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A 49-14 loss to eventual state champion Bishop Gorman High last November in the Sunset Regional semifinals ended the best season in the Arbor View football team’s brief history. But it might have helped pave the way for the program to reach its goal of being just like Gorman, a perennial power.

Arbor View didn’t back down against Gorman, picking up three consecutive first downs on its initial possession and holding its own for most of the first half before being blown out.

“It made us, and made me, want to work harder,” said Elijah George, the Aggies junior offensive lineman and one of the top players. “It made me see the mistakes I made. We aren’t afraid to play them. We are excited to play them again.”

With a new season three weeks away — official practices start Aug. 11 — from kickoff, Arbor View players are out to prove their success last fall was no fluke. They definitely won’t take anyone by surprise this fall.

Arbor View is ranked No. 4 in the Sun’s preseason top 10 rankings, joining Southern Nevada’s elite after its breakthrough 2010 season and because of a solid group of talented underclassmen.

Two-time defending state champion Gorman again takes the top spot in the rankings, which is no surprise considering the Gaels are ranked No. 10 nationally by Maxpreps.com and have been No. 1 in the Sun’s rankings every week the past two years.

The surprise arguably comes with Arbor View, which hadn’t qualified for the playoffs until last year when it took second in the Northwest Division and topped Durango in the Sunset quarterfinals. Arbor View, which opened in 2005, won its first nine games and finished 10-2.

The Aggies will be tested immediately.

They open at Liberty, which was a state semifinalist in 2010 and known for its physical play. The following week, Arbor View heads into the Northwest Division against rival Palo Verde, which it has never beaten.

“We have the approach to take one game at a time. We really do,” Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said. “(Liberty) is just a nonleague game. It’s not as important as playing Palo Verde the next week. But, of course, we want to have a great showing every week.”

Arbor View’s roster is loaded with quality players. George dominated upfront last year as a sophomore; senior defensive back Roderick Eason has a scholarship offer from Colorado; Steve Burns last year rushed for 5.7 yards per carry and seven touchdowns; and Christian Rodriquez potentially could be one of the best two-way players in Southern Nevada. Add in players from a dominant lower-level program, and the Aggies have reasons to be optimistic.

Although several teams dread playing Gorman, Arbor View players know it is the one game standing in their way of greatness.

“Our kids came out and weren’t scared (against Gorman). They definitely held their own,” Barnson said. “Gorman has a great program. That is where we would like ours to be.”

Here is the rest of the preseason rankings.

Editor’s note: This is Ray Brewer’s, Sun sports editor, 16th year covering Las Vegas high school football.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No.1 Bishop Gorman (two-time defending state champions)

      Gorman hasn’t lost a regular season game to a local opponent since 2006 in winning three of the past four state championships. Its record the past four years is downright impressive at 54-4 — three of the defeats came to out-of-state opponents, while the fourth was in the playoffs to Palo Verde. The Gaels will have the area’s most potent offense with returners Shaquille Powell (double-digit scholarship offers) at running back, Anu Solomon (4,445 passing yards and 60 touchdowns the past two years) at quarterback and Ryan Smith at wide receiver (16 touchdown as a sophomore in 2010). However, Gorman will be unproven defensively, having to replace standouts Jalen Grimble (Miami), Jaylon Jackson and Ronald Lyles from last year’s team.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 2 Palo Verde (Northwest Division champion and state semifinalist in 2010)

      Palo Verde is consistently one of the state’s top programs, winning the state title in 2004 and narrowly losing in the 2008 title game. The Panthers were the last local team to beat Gorman, topping their rivals for the ’08 Sunset title. Palo Verde will again be at the top of the mountain, led by Dillon Chaisson on the defensive line, Ryan Beaulieu (arguably the city’s top junior) at defensive back and Jerrol Garcia-Williams at linebacker. Offensively, several typically shine in the Panthers’ impossible-to-stop wing rushing attack. Jay Maxwell, who rushed for 12 touchdowns and 7.5 yards per carry, is the top returning tailback, while lineman Myles Elgaard will be a leader upfront.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 3 Del Sol (state runner-up in 2009 and perennial Southeast power)

      Despite always struggling with numbers (the Dragons typically have a rotation of 16 to 18 players with several contributing on both sides of the ball) the central Las Vegas school finds ways to win. This year will be no different. Del Sol will be led by senior running back Chris Marshall, who is one of the best players in the Sunrise Region and will likely lead the valley in rushing after receiving a bulk of the carries in Del Sol’s run-first offense. Senior quarterback Nate Kirschbaum will look to continue his family’s legacy at the school — brother Micah and Jon are two of the young program’s all-time best players — and lineman Juan Flores is one of the Southeast Division’s most underrated players. Add in athletes such as Raheem Jones and Dwayne Kirkland and the Dragons will be in position to have another meaningful playoff run. They won the Sunrise Region in 2009 and played in the state title game, but were hurt with injuries last year in being knocked out early.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 4 Arbor View (reached Sunset semifinals in 2010)

      Arbor View will have its hands full during the first two weeks with games against state semifinalists from 2010, Liberty and Palo Verde.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 5 Liberty (Sunrise Region champion and state semifinalist in 2010)

      Liberty, which last fall was a failed 2-point conversion attempt from playing for the state title, has one of the area’s most potent running games with running back Niko Kapeli and lineman PJ Taeao leading the way. Defensively, unproven players such as Kimo Seau and Jared Tuilagi will have to come up big for the Patriots to defend their Sunrise Regional crown.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 6 Las Vegas High (Northeast champion and Sunrise runner-up in 2010)

      The Wildcats have two of the Las Vegas Valley’s top players in quarterback Hasaan Henderson and running back Farrell Victor. They also return defensive standout Kaveo Walker at linebacker and have the state’s best kicker in junior Jay Mattox. But the glory days of Wildcat dominance — remember, they won six straight Sunrise titles from 2003 to ’08 and were state champs in 2001, ’05 and ’06 — will be hard to duplicate this fall. First-year coach James Thurman has to replace 18 starters, a feat that puts inexperienced players into a lineup for a team that will always be targeted for an upset. This could be the year Northeast rivals Canyon Springs and Desert Pines reign supreme.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 7 Centennial (reached Sunset semifinals in 2010)

      Centennial surprised last year by giving perennial power Palo Verde a pair of competitive games, ultimately losing to their league rivals 30-0 in the Sunset semifinals despite trailing just 10-0 at halftime. The good news for the Bulldogs is the cupboard is far from bare, with players such as running back Jacobi Owens, defensive back Isiac Catmull and defensive end Jerod Cody each having made significant contributions the past two years. Additionally, junior defensive end Trajan Pili verbally committed to BYU after being a full-time starter last year as a sophomore. Don’t be surprised if Centennial bests Arbor View in Northwest Division play and hosts a quarterfinal playoff game.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 8 Desert Pines (playoff qualifier in four of the past five years)

      Several feel the Northeast Division will be won by Las Vegas and Canyon Springs. Just don’t count out Desert Pines. The Jaguars are led by offensive lineman Cedrick Poutasi (arguably the valley’s top college prospect) and Allen Vaiao, who will pave the way for senior Leon Hayes. Even though the Jaguars are under the radar, remember it’s just August. They have the talent to be one of the Sunrise Region’s last teams standing.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 9 Canyon Springs (reached Sunrise semifinals in 2010)

      Canyon Springs opens against Palo Verde in a game that will be the measuring stick for its progress. The Pioneers have dominated the lower levels the past two years and several of those players will be key contributors for a team that advanced to the regional semifinals last year. Canyon Springs has plenty of athletic players at the skilled positions, but will need contributions upfront to hang with Palo Verde and the valley’s other top teams.

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      Photo by Sam Morris

      No. 10 Silverado (playoff qualifier in 2010)

      With defensive end Brandon Card and tight end Josh Curtis, two legitimate college prospects, moving out of the Silverado zone, the Skyhawks’ lineup definitely took a blow. But they are still loaded with talent. Senior quarterback Savon Moniz is healthy after battling a leg injury last year and could be the Southeast Division’s top signal caller. Also, linebackers Coty Iwata and Kusitafu Otuafi will anchor what could be a stingy defense. Silverado has underachieved the past three years after being mentioned as one of the Las Vegas Valley’s best. Look for the Skyhawks to take advantage of their spot a little under the radar.

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