Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 | 11:45 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer look over a surprising remaining playoff bracket before weighing in with their picks.
The significance of a first appearance in the Division I Sunset Region championship is not lost on Arbor View football players.
Just ask Charles Louch.
“This is the best feeling I’ve ever had,” the senior running back and cornerback said through a smile worthy of a program-defining win.
Herman Gray rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 33 attempts, Louch carried 18 times for 102 yards and a score and grabbed an interception on defense, and Arbor View cruised to a 24-7 victory over visiting rival Palo Verde in the Sunset semifinal tonight.
The win sent the Aggies (11-0) into the Sunset title game for the first time. They will host five-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman (12-0), the top-ranked team in the nation, next week.
“It’s the first time in school history to make it past the second round, and it feels great,” Gray said. “I think offensively, we were just keeping the ball away from Palo and just grinding out long drives.”
Arbor View dominated time of possession, as the only points for Palo Verde (7-4) came on Darrion Finn’s 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
That was about all the fireworks the Panthers could muster, as the usually vaunted offense was held to 61 total yards.
“Preparation,” said Louch, who made a leaping interception of a Palo Verde pass on the final play of the first half. “All week we worked hard. We worked on different defenses to counter their offense. We deeply looked at their offense, and it was a week of preparation and hard work.”
Arbor View claimed the battle of double-wing offenses for perhaps the biggest win in program history.
“To go (to) 11-0 against one of our biggest rivals, there’s no better feeling than right now,” Louch said. “Now it’s time to prepare for Gorman.”
Running behind an offensive line including Northern Arizona commit Malik Noshi and elite junior tackle Keenen King, Gray and Louch chipped away at the Palo Verde defense all night along with fullback Denajiou McZeal (five carries, 22 yards).
“We knew our guys upfront were good,” Barnson said. “We went in with that game plan, and it worked great.”
Carter Andrade drilled a 44-yard field goal to give the Aggies a 3-0 lead with 6:09 left in the first quarter, but Palo Verde answered quickly — on the ensuing kickoff with Finn’s return score to go up 7-3.
But Arbor View dominated from there, using a fourth-down conversion in the red zone to keep alive a drive capped by quarterback Bryce Poster’s 1-yard TD run to regain the lead for good 9:44 before halftime at 10-7.
Gray ran for a 4-yard TD and a 17-7 lead 38.7 seconds before the half, and Louch capped the scoring with a 7-yard run with 4:34 left in the game.
“It’s special,” Gray said of reaching the regional title game for the first time.
Said Barnson: “We’ve been two deep four years in a row, never able to get past that second round. This is something special. These kids made history tonight, Arbor View history. I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“Our kids played well. I couldn’t be more proud of the school, the kids, our administration, the coaching staff. It’s fun. It really wasn’t one kid tonight; it was 55 of them that got this win.”
Now the Aggies will turn their attention to the ultimate test — a date with the Gaels.
“It’s an opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the nation. How many teams get to do that?” Barnson said. “We get to. It’s a pretty cool thing. We’re going to do what we do. I’ve got a lot of respect for coach (Tony) Sanchez and everything they do.”
Arbor View will host the game because it’s the Northwest League’s turn to host a battle of No. 1 seeds. Gorman ran the table in the Southwest.
Aaron Chisolm led Palo Verde with 20 yards on nine carries. Panthers quarterback Logan Hutchison connected with Tyler Thornton three times for 25 yards.