Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 | 1:33 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer are pumped up for all the high-stakes games going down Thursday night. But why can't they be played on Friday?
One by one, the Arbor View seniors fought their way through the chaos that comes along with notching the biggest win in school history to stand in front of their teammates.
They yelled over the noise coming from the fans surrounding them that rushed the field, thanking each other and sharing what a 35-29 victory over host Palo Verde meant to each one of them personally.
“I kind of wanted to step off to the side and look at it,” Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said.
Instead, Barnson wound up right in the middle. Engulfed with the overwhelming sense of accomplishment, Barnson leapt up and down with his players.
Other than pure celebration, there were tears. There were hugs. There were proclamations of Arbor View’s dramatic comeback going down as one of the best Las Vegas high school football games of all time.
It felt like more than a victory to finish the regular season undefeated and win the Northwest division championship to the Aggies. For them, it was a moment that officially anointed their program as one of the city’s elite.
Seven years after the school opened, Arbor View finally downed the powerhouse program that always seemed a step ahead.
“I’m trying to let it sink in,” an emotional Barnson said. “It’s a big deal. It really is. We’ve all thought about this.”
The irony of Arbor View getting past its rival for the first time ever with a player who went to Palo Verde last year leading the way wasn’t lost on Barnson. Junior running back Jacob Speaks, who transferred to Arbor View from Palo Verde in the middle of his sophomore year, exploded for 130 total yards of offense and two touchdowns.
Speaks scored the game-winning touchdown when he took a sweep 34 yards with 3:39 remaining. The Aggies had trailed by eight points 10 seconds earlier.
Rasheed Parks ran in a touchdown on a quarterback sneak with 3:39 remaining to cut the score to 29-27, but the Aggies came up inches short of converting their two-point attempt.
Despite Arbor View not having a rush of more than 12 yards since the first quarter, Speaks scored on the first play.
“I used vision,” Speaks said. “I had to follow my blockers. I followed my team. I followed my boy Jimmie (Finister), who had a great out-block on a d-back.”
What was Barnson’s first thought after Arbor View took the lead for the first time 44 minutes into the game? Not relief.
“Too much (darn) time,” Barnson thought.
After surrendering four touchdowns in the first half — Arbor View trailed 27-14 at halftime — the Aggies clamped down on defense in the second half. Defensive linemen like Thomas Newton, Steven Davis and Oscar Fulton routinely stuffed Panthers rushes at the line of scrimmage. Jacob Parker picked off a Parker Rost pass at a critical juncture late in the third quarter.
But the Panthers had one last surge with the game on the line. Behind senior Ryan Beaulieu, who had 129 yards of offense and two touchdowns, and junior Jake Ortale, who had two catches for 31 yards and a touchdown, Palo Verde got the ball to Arbor View’s 30-yard line with a minute to go.
Rost appeared to complete a pass to Beaulieu on third-and-four, but Speaks sprinted in to knock it out of his former teammate’s hands. The Aggies blew up a fourth-and-four run from Andrew Simister before he ever got out of the backfield.
“Defense stepped up,” Speaks said. “We haven’t beaten Palo ever, but I’ve got one thing to say — it’s all about family here. It was that time. It was going to happen sooner or later.”
It looked like the Aggies would have to wait at least one more year in the first half. The Panthers thoroughly out-played them, as Rost’s first two completions went for touchdowns.
Despite a strong half on the ground from Finister, who had most of his 76 rushing yards in the opening 24 minutes, Arbor View was seemingly outmatched.
Barnson said he made no significant changes at halftime. It was just a matter of Arbor View rising to the considerable occasion.
“I’m happy for our families because they go through this with us,” Barnson said. “I’m happy for our kids. I’m happy for our school as a whole. This is just a big moment. We’re going to celebrate this one.”