Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 | 1:54 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer celebrate rivalry week in Southern Nevada by discussing the big three — Centennial vs. Arbor View, Bishop Gorman vs. Palo Verde and Las Vegas vs. Liberty. They also touch on the Division 1A playoffs.
Aside from the meaningless flag that came with the outcome already decided, the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Louch was perfect. The senior churned out a machinelike 178 rushing yards on offense, while registering the only takeaway of the game with an interception on defense.
Louch led Arbor View to one of its biggest wins in school history, a 21-16 triumph over previously unbeaten archrival Centennial.
“I love a challenge,” Louch said while teammates yelled in the background and sprayed water bottles in celebration. “When challenge occurs, that’s when I step up to my best.”
The Aggies claimed the Sunset Northwest division title, and finished the regular season undefeated for the second time in three years. That the decisive win came over the Bulldogs made the whole achievement much sweeter.
Centennial added fuel to an already bitter rivalry over the summer when it printed t-shirts that listed “annahilate (sic) Arbor View” as one of the keys to success for the season. Arbor View’s players never forgot the slight, keeping in the back of their minds the possibility they could come into the regular season-closing tilt with a chance to go 9-0.
“This was our goal since seven months ago when we started practicing,” Louch said.
It didn’t always look attainable, not even on Thursday. Centennial took a 10-7 lead into halftime, but its advantage in the first half felt more pronounced.
The Bulldogs totally shut down the Aggies’ offense in the first two quarters aside from two big plays — a 72-yard rush for Louch and a 61-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Poster to Maurice Harvey on Arbor View’s first play from scrimmage. Centennial, which scored on a 59-yard run from Rhamondre Stevenson and a 35-yard field goal from Zach Mays, dominated the trenches by not allowing a single rush for more than three yards up the middle.
The Bulldogs limited the city’s leading rusher, Herman Gray, to seven yards in the first half.
“I went in and looked at Herman at halftime and said, ‘block your butt off because they’re keying on you,’” Arbor View coach Dan Barnson recounted. “I said, ‘Charles, here we go.’”
The Aggies’ power-running issues ceased when it mattered. They softened the middle of the Bulldogs’ defense, where junior linebacker Tishawn Barnaby seemed to make every tackle in the first half, by constantly getting Louch out on the edges with sweeps.
Louch had the longest rush, a 34-yard scamper, of a 6-minute, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Gray wedged his way into the end zone from one yard out to return the lead to Arbor View at 14-10.
Centennial answered by driving into Arbor View territory behind the arm of quarterback Juan Rodriguez, who went 14-for-21 for 141 yards on the night, but Louch put a premature end to the possession with an interception along the sideline.
“My (defensive backs) coach always tells me to get deep,” Louch explained. “I saw a wheel route, so I bailed deep and made a play on the ball.”
In a game so closely contested that Arbor View only outgained Centennial by 40 yards, the importance of getting the lone turnover can’t be overstated. The teams punted back to each other once apiece, before Arbor View got the ball with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Eight-and-a-half minutes and 12 plays later, Gray fought his way in for another 1-yard touchdown. It was Arbor View’s second imposing, 80-yard scoring drive in three tries.
“We’re a ground and pound offense,” Louch said. “We chew up clock, 10- to 15-play drives eating up time. That’s our offense.”
A long kickoff return and penalty assisted Centennial scoring 24 seconds later on a 7-yard laser from Rodriguez to Brandan Harley. But the Bulldogs’ onside kick attempt went straight out of bonds, giving the Aggies the ball, just needing to run out the clock.
Gray, who recorded 22 carries for 63 yards on the night, and Denajiou McZeal, who had nine carries for 36 yards total, both burst through the line with big gains to clinch the win.
“The last two first downs, to me, that’s what our program is about,” Barnson said. “We needed one first down; we got two.”
Louch stared down the Centennial sidelines after the second and repeatedly raised his arms. The side judge penalized the somewhat innocent gesture.
No one chastised Louch, who was allowed some emotion after annihilating the Bulldogs.
“Charles is small but he’s got breakaway speed and he’s deceivingly strong,” Barnson responded when asked if he was aware Louch was capable of carrying the Aggies going into the game. “Oh yeah, we knew. And he showed it.”