Published Friday, Aug. 26, 2016 | 6 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 | 1:07 a.m.
Stories from games across the valley:
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It was his first coaching job. The memories and friendships have lasted a lifetime.
When Centennial High football coach Leon Evans walks his team onto the field at Desert Pines tonight for the season opener, he admits there will be some strong emotions.
Evans was on Desert Pines’ initial coaching staff when it opened in 1999. A few years later he was elevated to head coach, leading the Jags to back-to-back state championship games. They lost in 2002 to McQueen and the following year to Reno High.
“This is where it all started for me. Loved my time here,” Evans said.
Evans eventually left for a college job before returning to Las Vegas and finding his way to Centennial. In six seasons, he’s built Centennial into a perennial contender and won nearly 50 games. They’ve won a playoff game in every season.
His days at Desert Pines helped shaped his career. He remembers those mornings when he’d be the first to arrive at the school to break down game film and prepare for practice.
His oldest son, Jamaal, would tag along. Jamaal would play in the bleachers or run around the track. Before the day was over, he’d be asleep in the coach’s office.
Tonight, Jamaal is Centennial’s senior quarterback. And he’s a good one — the dual-threat signal caller is committed to Utah State.
“(Jamaal) remembers those days when we’d show up at 4 in the morning,” coach Evans said.
Desert Pines returned to the state championship game in 2014 with coach Tico Rodriguez at the helm. With a roster of Division I players at multiple positions, including a wide receiver committed to USC, Desert Pines is expected to win the 3A classification state title.
The championship run begins tonight against an old friend.
“They are loaded,” coach Evans said. “You watch them on film and they scare you. If we aren’t sound in our execution, it could get ugly.”
This isn’t the only game of top-10 opponents tonight to break in a new season. Fourth-ranked Arbor View travels to six-time defending Sunrise Region champion Liberty in one of the most anticipated nonleague games of the season.
Faith Lutheran, recently promoted to the large-school classification, takes on St. Pius X of Texas. Next week, the Crusaders travel to Hawaii.
Other games of note include: Las Vegas at Palo Verde in a rematch of the 2004 state championship game, 3A power Moapa Valley at Sierra Vista, and Foothill at Cheyenne.
We’ll keep you posted as scores become final. Send us game information and fan photos on Twitter using #sunstandout or #702hsfb.