Posts Tagged ‘High School Football’

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Can Bishop Gorman tight end Alize Jones seize the moment, against USA Today’s top-ranked St. John Bosco? Photo: Barry Wong

 

By W.G. Ramirez

Just watching something like the final home game of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter after an illustrious career, one might wonder what that must feel like.

I did. 

For a moment. Not even the whole thing. Just a moment. 

After a nice buildup to the game, I was somewhat happy for Baltimore Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, who spent a summer in Las Vegas with a competitive collegiate club, Team Vegas. When Jeter stroked a double in the first inning, and later scored to tie the game, for Gausman, it was a moment.

Oddly, after 2,745 career games, his final one in the Boogie Down even made No. 2 a bit jittery – er, Jetery (thank you Mitch Fulfer for that one) – on the one stage you would have expected him to own Thursday night. After all, it was his moment. And man oh man did he seize it.

Tonight, when Bishop Gorman steps on its own field, to face what USA Today claims to be the No. 1 team in the nation – St. John Bosco – both the Gaels and Braves will have their moment. They’ll play amid the lights, beneath Gorman’s mountainous skyline, in front of a nationally televised audience that was switched from ESPNU, to ESPN, the network’s flagship station…

Yeah, moment.

In the same manner Twitter blew up last night with Jeter tweets, the Gaels and Bosco have had their fair share of attention throughout social media, with So. Cal pundits and communicative support systems tweeting about the Braves, and Gorman dominating local headlines this week, in every form of media.

Gorman opened the season as USAT’s No. 1 team. But after close calls during a rugged non-conference schedule, it dropped before climbing back to No. 2. And on Max Preps, the Gaels have been in and around No. 5 on different polls posted there, and this week came in just behind Bosco, as the two were ranked 3rd and 4th. 

Based on USAT’s current poll, this conceivably is for a mythical national championship.

Fact is, as the Review Journal’s David Schoen pointed out this week, Bosco is an eerie carbon copy of Bishop Gorman, in that you have a private high school resurrected to the national spotlight after its program dipped below mediocrity.

Just as Gorman took its lumps to reach the point it has this season, Bosco has followed suit. Earlier this week on local radio, Gaels coach Tony Sanchez put it in perspective how far this program has come.

“The hardest thing about this year is we’ve been everybody’s biggest game,” he told the guys on Gridlock – Mitch Moss, Ed Graney and Seat Williams.  

Usually, the Gaels are getting pumped for their biggest game – which, in essence this is – but this year they’ve become the hunted. Can you imagine, a team ranked higher than the Gaels with this game circled? Last year at this time, Gorman couldn’t wait for then No. 1 Booker T. Washington High to arrive from Miami. Washington won 28-12, the Gaels regrouped and ran roughshod through the state to win their fifth-straight title and now we’re here.

Here, as in Gorman opened the season against five-straight highly regarded foes on a national level; it is 5-0. The Gaels have been involved in a couple of battles – having to come-from-behind, and play some defense when it mattered – but they’ve proven their worth. As opposed to what Public Enemy told us in 1988: “Don’t Believe The Hype!” You better believe the Gaels are all about their hype. 

Bosco is 3-0 after opening its campaign with just as many blowouts, outscoring St. Louis (Honolulu), Norwalk (CA) and Central Catholic (Portland) by a combined final of 153-31. That’s an average final of 51-10. These Braves are looking forward to the postseason much more than the ones in Atlanta. And the Braves are looking at this as a territorial conquest. Knowing that as powerful as Gorman has been, in their eyes when it comes to Nevada and California the Golden State far outweighs the Silver one. There’s a sense of pride here.

A lot at stake, just as there was last night in the Bronx. The Yankees, obviously, felt compelled to win for Jeter and the Orioles are still in search of a homefield edge in the postseason. And just like last night I think we’re in store for a battle in this mega-high school game.

I ran each team’s numbers through a spreadsheet program that I use during the NFL and college football seasons to see predicted outcomes for particular games. With Bosco and Gorman, I have eight games to work with, and after using filters and applying a specified formula based on performance, I did come up with four final scores.

Based on the season, Bosco would win this game, 31-28. After all, the Braves have annihilated their opponents, so after factoring in what Gorman’s defense has given up yards and point wise, it’s not surprising they should score 31. If we were to base this on Bosco’s three games this season, and only Gorman’s last three, the Braves win handedly, 37-23. Considering how the teams perform at home and on the road, I see Bosco winning, 30-23. 

Add those three finals, and you have a composite prediction of Bosco 32, Gorman 25. 

But as ESPN’s Lee Corso would say on Saturday’s Gameday: “Not so fast, my friend!” 

Maybe Bosco is the actual target in this game. Maybe Gorman still has visions of last year’s loss to Washington, at Fertitta Field, and wants to avenge that loss Friday night, knowing what’s at stake on a national level. We’ve seen some impressive things by plenty of local athletes in 2014, so why shouldn’t the Gaels live in their moment, with a pair of standout seniors playing the final home game of their high school careers shining bright to lead the way.

On defense, one of those signature Nicco Fertitta hits to stir up the mood, and possibly cause a turnover. And on offense, how do you not turn to all-American tight end Alize Jones? Jones puts up outstanding numbers, and even when I’ve seen the Gaels play terribly, Jones’ play never waivers. He’s been the go-to guy whenever Sanchez needs something.

So while I see Bosco giving Gorman everything it can handle, and potentially leading 31-28 late, I think it would be fitting to see Fertitta making his play with about three or four minutes left in the game, the Gaels taking over on offense and Jones taking over the game. Filter in some crafty running by Russell Booze and smart decision making by quarterback Tate Martell, and it sets up nicely for a game-winning TD by Jones.

And just like it was Jeter’s in the bottom of the 9th, when he stroked the walk-off single for the Yankees in a 5-4 win, it’s the Gaels’ turn to play for the moment. It’s Gorman’s moment to seize. 

I’ll side with the enchanted football tale: Bishop Gorman 35, St. John’s Bosco 31.

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Amid all the sports posters on Arbor View assistant coach Sam Toomer’s wall, nothing else mattered than the Battle of the Bulls trophy, which Arbor and Legacy will play for.

By W.G. Ramirez

FOR A FULL RECAP – STORY AND VIDEO – visit MyLVSports.com!

Last year Arbor View High School football coach Dan Barnson forgot to pull the Battle of the Bulls trophy out of the school trophy case for the Saturday team meeting before the Aggies’ annual showdown with Legacy.

This year the horns were present.

“The kids need to see it,” Barnson said, of the trophy. “They need to see it, they need to touch it – it’s an important thing. This year it’s Thursday night … and it’s fun. It’s a great competition and the trophy means something to these kids.”

To say the least, as the Longhorns and Aggies started the traditional trophy game seven years ago.  Legacy won the first three meetings, and Arbor View has won the last three. Thursday night, one of these schools will be 4-3 in the series.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Greg Wolfram, Arbor View High’s athletic administrator. “This game isn’t just about football, it’s about school spirit. I think everybody is aware it’s the Battle of the Bulls. Being it’s on TV … and its Battle of the Bulls … it’s pretty big.”

THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

It’s not ESPN or Fox Sports, but when the teams kickoff Thursday night, they’ll be under the local television lights, as My LVTV’s weekly Thursday Night Lights broadcast is the Battle of the Bulls.

Local on-air talent Brian Blessing and Kenny White from ESPN Radio provide play-by-play commentary, while Steph McKenzie from 97.1 The Point provides sideline reporting during the game. It’ll mark the second straight week the Longhorns have been on the broadcast, as the TV crew was at Mojave last week for Legacy’s 27-6 victory against the Rattlers.

In past years the My LVTV crew has noted during the broadcast about Arbor View’s notorious Grateful Red section, which rivals any school’s fan section in town – whether the Aggies are at home or on the road.

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Arbor View High School’s Grateful Red section is one of the most spirited in Southern Nevada, whether at home or on the road. Photo: Kayla Faircloth

“We’re fortunate and it’s always been like that,” Barnson said. “We’ve always had a great fan base and support from the community, and we feel we want to put the product out there now to support the fan base.

“We get to promote our school, promote the kids, promote our fan base, the band – this is not just Arbor View football on Thursday night, this is the whole community of Arbor View and that’s the fun thing.”

This year Legacy arguably has one of its best programs since the school opened, and the enthusiasm has senior running back Casey Hughes believing his Longhorns will be well-represented for the drive up I-215, from North 5th Street to Buffalo and Grand Teton.

“We set the tone for the school ’cause we’re the football team,” Hughes said. “Student Council and other activities and sports are supporting football more this year than in the past.”

Added Arbor View senior Devon Turner: “Having it on TV just goes along with the horns.”

THE FRIENDSHIP

What most may not realize is the friendship Barnson and Legacy coach Dave Snyder share, as the two have known one another since they were six years old. They went to elementary school together, went to the same middle school and both attended the same high school.

Their fathers were legends in this town and coached against one another. Now they’re doing the same.

“Everybody has their rivalries, and Dan and I are good friends,” Snyder said. “But once the kickoff starts, we’re at war. And we both look at it the same way. After the football game we’ll shake hands.”

Added Barnson: “He’s one of my truly good friends. I can call Coach Snyder anytime. For one week we have to put everything aside, and we lay it on the line.”

And as much as the two enjoy the rivalry, and camaraderie it continues to build each year, Barnson said it’s not an easy game to coach in either.

“The flipside is it’s harder; you don’t want to beat a friend, you don’t want to lose to a friend,” Barnson said. “If they beat us he knows how I feel. If I beat him I know how he feels.”

BATTLE OF THE BULLS

Ultimately, past all the build-up, social-media trash talking, television hype and even the trophy, it comes down to the actual game, the actual Battle of the Bulls – the Arbor View Aggies and Legacy Longhorns.

And this year figures to be a dandy, with Legacy arriving with arguably the town’s most talented running back (Hughes) to face an Arbor View defense that has locked down Centennial and Coronado in consecutive weeks.

The Aggies, ranked second in the Southern Nevada Football Coaches Poll, has allowed a mere seven points in two games, and rolls into this one fresh off their 42-0 whitewash at Coronado.

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Legacy’s Casey Hughes ranks No. 1 among Division I rushers with 584 yards, while averaging 13.9 ypg.

“We’re both ball-control teams, and whoever does the best will probably come out on top,” said Snyder, whose Longhorns are ranked 8th this week in the poll. “We need to make sure our time of possession is there and we control the line of scrimmage.”

An understatement for sure, as the Longhorns would love nothing more than to open holes for Hughes, who leads all Division I rushers with 584 yards after three games. Hughes is averaging 13.9 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns.

“They are one explosive team,” Barnson said. “They can go; on any play, they can go. It’s that old mentality, try to get ’em before they get going, and if we can get to ’em before they get going I think we’re gonna do okay. They’re big up front. They have a lot of returning linemen who have went against us and what we do and we haven’t changed anything we do. It should be exciting; we just have to stop their big play.”

Turner, who doubles as a running back and defensive back for the Aggies, said he’s been impressed by the effort of his teammates at practice all week.

“It’s the fastest I’ve ever seen us practice; everyone is pretty excited,” Turner said. “And we’re focused on beating their team as a whole team. We recognize Casey as one of their top assets; you can’t approach a game against Legacy and not respect him. But we also know what our defense is capable of.”

As does Hughes, who acknowledged the same respect toward the Aggies.

“I’m not going to take anything for granted,” Hughes said. “I know they can be a physical team, but we can be just as physical and get the job done. When we lost to Palo Verde (two weeks ago), the good thing was we went out and took practice serious. Now we know how we have to prepare for that type of team, and can focus on a team like Arbor View.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. Whether in person at Arbor View, or watching on My LVTV, this is one annual rivalry prep football enthusiasts, classmates and even alumni don’t want to miss.

FRONT - Herman Gray, Salah Boyce, Devon Turner and Ricky Clark. BACK - Lonnie Sharpe, Anthony Smith and Jacob Speaks

FRONT – Herman Gray, Salah Boyce, Devon Turner and Ricky Clark. BACK – Lonnie Sharpe, Anthony Smith and Jacob Speaks

By W.G. Ramirez

For some Southern Nevada football teams, this week will mark their fourth game of the season.

But for Arbor View, its Thursday night clash with Sunset Division-rival Centennial will be the team’s season lid-lifter, and for one senior, the game couldn’t come any sooner.

Devon Turner has been waiting for this day since last year’s training camp. A season-ending injury in a scrimmage game against Liberty last August left him watching his teammates roll to the Northwest Division crown, and now he’s ready to lead the team to back-to-back division championships and another trip to the postseason.

“We’re pretty excited to go out to play,” he said. “We’re sick of waiting but we have no worries. We’ve been working harder than everybody else.”

That last statement remains to be seen, since the Aggies haven’t played yet, but one thing is for sure – they’ve practiced longer than just about everyone else. Palo Verde also hasn’t played yet, and opens its season at Legacy on Thursday.

“It’s (been) hard to keep them focused, (keep them) going,” Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said. “We scrimmaged three weeks ago, and it seems like forever ago that we scrimmaged. But we’re dealing with it.”

Turner and six other running backs highlight the Aggies’ offense this season, and Barnson said he’s excited with his stable of thoroughbreds, who he’s hoping will run roughshod through a tough schedule, behind a relatively rebuilt offensive line.

Joining Turner are seniors Anthony Smith (735 yards in 2012), Jacob Speaks (577 yards), Salah Boyce (442 yards), Ricky Clark (210 yards) and Lonnie Sharpe (who stars as the team’s linebacker) and junior Herman Gray (364 yards).

“We only lost one running back from last year; we lost kids up front,” Barnson said. “We’re young up front, but the kids that are replacing are all from within our own system.”

Junior Malik Noshi heads up this year’s offensive line, which will miss graduated seniors Thomas Newton and Elijah George, who are now playing Division I football at UNR and Oregon, respectively.

“I played with them last year and they showed me everything to do and how to lead, so I feel pretty comfortable in leading the offensive line this year,” Noshi said.Arbor Chart

Barnson said the biggest thing about his seven-man wrecking crew out of the backfield is he feels no pressure of who to start, and senses no dissension from his stack of upperclassmen.

“A lot of kids would love to be the focal guy, but our direction is put those guys on defense, keep em fresh (and) rotate ’em on offense and they’ve accepted it,” he said. “And they’re all back from last year, so they’re used to it. If some kid gets hot, it seems like it’s his night, we go with him.”

Said Turner: “Nobody gets tired. I feel like we could all start at any other school in the city. Nobody cares about getting the rock around here, we just all want to help each other and help the team win.”

Plus, Barnson said, in addition to his running backs, he is confident in his 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback, senior Andrew Cornwell.

“(He) is doing great, he throws a catchable ball, and that helps,” Barnson said. “When a ball can be caught, then the kids can go get it. A lot of teams look at us and think ‘all they do is run’ but I think last year we averaged 10 to 12 passes a game. (Graduated) Rasheem (Parks) took off 4 or 5 of those and made runs out of them. The stats don’t show it, but we do attempt it.”

All the off-season work culminates Thursday night at Arbor View, as the Aggies renew that rivalry with Centennial.

The teams split their games last year, with Arbor View winning in the regular season, and the Bulldogs stealing a postseason win.

“Last year, if you look back, they looked great,” Barnson said of Centennial. “Did we overlook em? No, they played great. When it was over, we licked our wounds; we hit the weight room … all we can do (this year) is show up.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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