Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer return to the studio to discuss all of Las Vegas' high school football teams a week before the start of the season.
The Green Valley High defense is put in an unenviable situation every day at practice.
It’s not easy to compete against an offense that was one of Las Vegas’ best last season. The Gators averaged 43 points last year in a season that brought them to the Sunrise Region championship game for the first time in a decade.
“They can score at any time,” said senior defensive lineman Cordell Tidwell.
Green Valley is expected to be as potent as ever in 2014 as it transitions back into the Sunrise Southeast division. Three-year starter and preseason All-Sun quarterback Christian Lopez returns after a 37-touchdown campaign with some key pieces surrounding him.
Most of the offensive line is back — including 300-plus pound senior blocking machines Carter Nielsen and Tafa Vete — along with the team’s top two rushers. Seniors Larry Norman and Albert Lake combined to earn 1,533 yards last season, averaging more than six per carry.
The question comes with the receiving corps, where Green Valley graduated each of its top four receivers. But coach Brian Castro is unconcerned.
“I do believe that the guys coming up are pretty dang good,” Castro said. “I think people will find that out. At least I hope they will. Pressure is on those guys to make people figure it out.”
Pressure is something the Gators could use on defense. Several contests last season spiraled into wild shootouts as Green Valley gave up at least 30 points in eight of its 12 games.
But most of the contributors were, well, green and playing their first significant varsity action. With most of them back this season, the hope is that experience pays dividends and improves the unit.
“I think it’s just going to help us a lot better in the future this year,” Tidwell said. “Everyone is going to come back and play hard.”
The offense and special teams usually made up for the defensive follies as the Gators won a trio of one-point games — against Palo Verde, Las Vegas and Canyon Springs — in the regular season. The tendency to give up so many points, however, caught up with them in the playoffs.
The Green Valley defense showed some of its promise in the opening quarter and a half of the Sunrise championship game, holding Liberty to seven points. But then the Patriots exploded for 49 points the rest of the way in a pace even the Gators couldn’t match.
Green Valley rallied but came up short in a 56-43 loss.
“It was a tough loss but it obviously motivated us to work harder this year,” Norman said. “I think we should have won the game. We just made a couple mistakes. We need to drive and keep working harder.”
The Gators have their eyes on taking the season a step further this year. While they certainly have the talent, it won’t be easy.
Re-joining a division with Basic, Coronado and Foothill, Green Valley will have to go through a gauntlet of rivalries in three of the final five weeks.
“Every week, it’s tough,” Castro said. “There are a lot of great football teams in our division, and we don’t take them for granted. We just take it one week at a time and put in our work and hope that our game plan comes out on top in the end.”