Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer are back with a comprehensive — or some would say long-winded — look at high school football. They go division-by-division and team-by-team in this exhaustive 2012 debut. So settle in on the couch with a Snuggie or plan to make a round-trip drive from Boulder City to Shadow Ridge in order to listen to this one.
The teams will decide this argument.
When putting together the Sun’s preseason high school football top 10, there were two options for the No. 2 spot behind three-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman High at No. 1.
Palo Verde, which has a 59-6 record since 2007 and is the last local team to beat Gorman, is a perennial power and more than deserving. After all, the Panthers’ lone two defeats since 2010 have each come to Gorman in the playoffs, and they surrendered only 117 points in 12 games last year.
Then, there is two-time defending Sunrise Regional champion Liberty.
The Patriots put a scare into Gorman during last year’s state semifinals, twice holding leads in the first half and trailing by one point midway through the third quarter before losing, 56-34.
Although both teams are worthy, the nod went to Liberty — yes, the effort against Gorman was that impressive.
The rankings were determined by the Sun’s Case Keefer and Ray Brewer. Come Sept. 13, however, the players on Liberty and Palo Verde will have their say when they meet in the most anticipated nonleague game of the season.
Here are the rankings.
Follow Ray Brewer on Twitter at @RayBrewer21.
1. Bishop Gorman
The nationally ranked and three-time defending state champion Gaels have been the only team in the top spot of the Sun’s weekly rankings in the past three years and haven’t lost a regular season game to a local opponent since 2006. They are led by some of the state’s top players: quarterback Anu Solomon (an Arizona commit), junior running back Nate Starks (offers from Oklahoma and Texas), wide receiver Ryan Smith , defensive lineman Jake Smirk and defensive back Justin Sweet . When it’s all said and done, nine of the Gaels’ seniors could have college scholarships — a big reason Gorman is 43-3 in the past three years with wins against nationally ranked, out-of-state opponents. Pictured are defensive tackle Marquis Hunkin (left), running back Tajon Allen (front) and senior wide receiver Jamir Tillman.
The Patriots have won the past two Sunrise Regional championships and are the clear favorites to repeat. Senior running back Niko Kapeli , a UNLV commit, is already the school’s all-time leading rusher, proving he’s the real deal by gaining 237 yards from scrimmage and scoring two touchdowns last year against Gorman in the state semifinals. Kai Nacua (BYU) returns for his third season at quarterback and will see significant action at linebacker. Silverado transfer Chris Noone (front) will anchor the offensive line, Hawaii move-in Jay Mitchell (left) gives the Patriots the speed they previously lacked and Phoenix Uptain (right) returns at linebacker.
3. Palo Verde
The Panthers’ two defeats in the past two seasons have each come against eventual state champion Bishop Gorman. Continuing the success will rely on how seniors Ryan Beaulieu and Lee Griggs perform — they’ll play running back, defensive back and on special teams. Senior Brad Solomon (left) will lead the offensive line, which traditionally is one of Palo Verde’s strengths. Senior Andrew Simister (right) is a two-way performer at fullback and linebacker.
4. Arbor View
The Aggies, which reached the Sunset semifinals in the past two seasons, have a 19-5 record since 2010 in becoming one of the Las Vegas Valley’s perennial top-5 teams. This year, led by three-star recruit Elijah George and Steven Davis (middle) on the offensive line, the Aggies’ double-wing ground attack again will give opponents fits. Senior running back Donnie Gaskin (left) rushed for more than 1,200 yards last year and returns as the feature back. Twins Rasheed (far right) and Rasheem Parks will be key contributors on both sides of the ball.
The Bulldogs have won playoff games in the past two seasons, including last year when they were one play away from reaching the Sunset Regional championship game. With several key returners and more depth than most of the area’s teams, Centennial is likely to make another postseason run. They are led by senior defender Trajan Pili (third from left), a BYU commit, and quarterback/safety Austin Turley (far right). Chris Johnson and (second left) Coby Newton (left) will make key contributions on both sides of the ball at running back and linebacker.
6. Canyon Springs
After finally getting past Las Vegas last year to claim the Northeast Division title, the Pioneers failed to win a playoff game in a disappointing end to the season. Determined to make amends for the upset to Basic, they have the talent — namely San Diego State commit Donnel Pumphrey at running back, linebacker and fullback Tobias Carson and defensive lineman Rayshawn Henderson — to have a memorable season. Canyon Springs’ core group of players, including Stephone Revels (left), Fabian Leos (middle) and A.J. Cooper (right), has lost just one league game in the past two years.
The Wolves proved they can score against any team in town during last year’s Sunrise Regional quarterfinals, having their way in the passing game for a 42-21 victory to knock off top-seeded Canyon Springs. Basic returns its top offensive threats in wide receiver Devonte Boyd, a key UNLV recruiting target, and athletic junior Antraye Johnson. Basic will also be led by, from left to right, safety Anthony Owens, linebacker Mike Roberts and offensive lineman Ian Bates.
8. Las Vegas
The Wildcats reached the Sunrise semifinals last year but graduated their top two players, quarterback Hasaan Henderson and Farrell Victor. The duo accounted for 75 percent of Las Vegas’ offense in the past two years. Although it isn’t a top-5 team for the first time in more than a decade, Las Vegas still has plenty of weapons. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Swenson has the ability to be a game-changer, senior Vince Castro (left) was an all-league selection last year at wide receiver, and the defense returns nose guard Lahmed Evans (center) and all three of its starting linebackers. Joshua Mayfield (right) will create big plays at wide receiver and in the return game.
The Falcons return just six starters — two on offense and four on defense — from last year’s team, which reached the Sunrise Regional finals. The two returners on offense, however, are two of the state’s best. San Diego State commit Tyler Morris (middle) and junior quarterback Drew Doxtator (2,668 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2011) will be tough to stop. Senior Andre Gonzalez (left) will start at wide receiver and defensive back, and senior defensive end Joe Wythe (right) has developed into a threat up front.
The Trailblazers will have two of the best players on the field each Friday night in running back Marcus Williams , a Utah commit, and Arie McQuaig , and first-year coach Matt Gerber plans to give each plenty of carries. Add in 5-foot-11, 220-pound fullback Gene Germain (left) in the backfield, along with linemen Ben Rush (middle) and Jonathan Kalderon (left), and Durango has enough pieces to make a run in the stacked Sunset Region.