Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 | 1:02 a.m.
It’s not often the Arbor View High football team leaves the field a loser.
Prior to Friday night, the Aggies had won 19 straight regular season games, and 36 of their last 38. That ended when Hamilton High from Arizona came to Las Vegas and topped Arbor View 23-17 in a battle that went down to the wire.
The Aggies battled back in the fourth quarter, but their comeback attempt fell short when Logan Bollinger’s pass to the end zone on fourth and goal fell to the turf.
Following the game, the heartbroken players gathered into a circle and took a knee in front of head coach Dan Barnson, who told them with conviction: “This moment will not define our season.”
Over the last half-decade, nearly every loss Arbor View has suffered has been in the playoffs, at the hands of Bishop Gorman, and has ended their season. Those losses provided the players no opportunity to bounce back or learn from their mistakes, only a locker to clean out.
But Friday night’s loss is different, and the Aggies are ready to respond.
“When we say we’re going to get after it, we’re going to do it tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.,” offensive tackle Lyle Santos said. “It’s better to learn now than at the end of the season. Now we get to bounce back.”
Early in the game it appeared Arbor View was on its way to an easy victory. The offense drove straight down the field for two early scores to give the Aggies an early 10-0 lead, and Arbor View out-rushed Hamilton 204-50 in the first half.
The problem was in the air — where Bollinger was 0-for-7 with an interception — and in ball control, as star running back Kyle “Bubba” Graham fumbled the ball two times.
“We kept hitting speed bumps all night,” Barnson said. “We would take two steps forward and three steps back, but the kids will learn from it.”
Hamilton took advantage of the Aggies' mistakes by scoring 20 unanswered points. Star receiver Brenden Rice — son of NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice — tore the Arbor View secondary to pieces with five catches for 95 yards.
The 6-foot-2 receiver scored the Huskies' first touchdown with a spectacular one-handed grab with defenders draped over him. He gave Hamilton its first lead of the game with a 28-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter.
“He’s a big kid, and (our defensive backs) will be better for covering that kid in this game, but that kid was good,” Barnson said.
Hamilton quarterback Peyton Poe finished the game 18-of-34 for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
Arbor View ran the ball at will for most of the game, finishing with 307 yards on the ground. That was led by Graham, who tallied 183 rushing yards on 25 carries.
“We were moving the ball, and we were driving, but we would turn it over,” Barnson said. “We were doing what we do, and they made some adjustments. We aren’t going to change what we do. We are who we are.”
The Aggies scored to cut the gap to 20-17 late in the fourth quarter, but Hamilton added a field goal on their following possession and Arbor View’s final drive fell short in the red zone. The loss takes some wind out of the Aggies' sails after impressive wins over California teams Valley View and Valencia High to open the season, but should help them in the end.
“We’re 100 times better after these games,” Santos said. “After that close game last week against Valencia, we learned a lot. We couldn’t execute tonight and it’s tough, but we thank these teams for giving us a fight like this.”
“That’s kind of why we did it,” Barnson said. “The talent we played was better and we think that’s going to help us down the stretch. At least hope it does.”
Next up for Arbor View is a rivalry match against the Legacy Longhorns.
“We need to learn from it,” Barnson said. “It’s adversity, yes. The sun is going to come up tomorrow, we are going to watch film and try to fix what needs to be fixed. We have a big ‘Battle of the Bulls’ next week.”
This may be one of the most talented teams Arbor View has had, and with powers Bishop Gorman and Liberty in seemingly down years, the Aggies are motivated.
“We are going to use this loss as fuel and to keep us going throughout practice,” Santos said. “We will bring it every day.”