Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 | 12:36 a.m.
For a split second, Darius Harrison sat back motionless in an athletic position after dropping into coverage.
The Arbor View senior defensive back baited Centennial sophomore quarterback Colton Tenney into throwing to an outside receiver along the sideline, right where Harrison knew he could make a play on the ball.
“I just read it, picked it off and took it the house,” Harrison said.
Arbor View’s defense made all the right moves, and nary missed a read Friday night in a 28-13 victory on the road against archrival Centennial. The Aggies’ stinginess helped make up for an uncharacteristically lethargic offensive night.
Harrison’s interception return for a touchdown brought Arbor View’s first points, and was also its second of six takeaways for the game.
“Every week, (defensive coordinator John) Gibbons always tell us, ‘It’s a takeaway game,’” Harrison said. “It’s all about takeaways.”
The Bulldogs were moving the ball efficiently on their first drive, and appeared to have their biggest play yet when junior running back Jordan Smith found himself in the open field 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. But then Arbor View forced and recovered a fumble, which set the theme for the rest of the night.
The Aggies never allowed another rush for near that many yards, as defensive tackles Tai Tuinei and Cory Hall led a charge to shut down the Bulldogs’ running game. Passing-wise, Tenney was under constant pressure, succumbing to sacks by Arbor View’s J.J. Tuinei, Zavier Alston, Trent Whalen and more.
“I don’t want to say that’s our thing — bringing the heat,” Arbor View coach Darn Barnson said. “It’s not what we always do, but it was what was working tonight. If something is working, you go with it.”
Tenney, who finished 9-for-28 for 121 yards with three interceptions, even experienced pressure on Centennial’s lone offensive highlight of the night. Immediately after Harrison’s touchdown in the first quarter, Tenney felt the pocket collapsing as he lofted a long pass to senior receiver Amari Miller, who bobbled the ball down the sideline before hauling it in for a 58-yard touchdown.
Arbor View went into halftime with a 7-6 lead, but its offense again struggled after receiving the second-half kickoff. After punting the ball back to the Bulldogs, the Aggies’ defense scored their second touchdown of the night.
J.J. Tuinei stripped Tenney as he dropped back to pass, and junior linebacker Rickey Chiles scooped the loose ball and returned it for a 45-yard touchdown. Later, Arbor View senior cornerback Niles Scafati-Boyce had two interceptions to help hold off Centennial comeback attempts.
“Our defense played really well, and it was just one of those games,” Barnson said. “I don’t care what level of football you play — sometimes your defense wins you games.”
Arbor View’s offense finally started to arise late in the third quarter. Star senior running back Kyle Graham had two rushing touchdowns in the final 13 minutes, finishing with 121 yards on 19 carries.
Junior sidekick Justin Hausner had seven carries for 71 yards.
The Aggies didn’t feel like they had their best showing, but it was enough to put away the Bulldogs for the sixth consecutive season. That would have once been hard to believe, as the rivalry was known as one of the most competitive in the valley.
“It means everything,” Harrison said. “We love this rivalry. We love beating the blue team.”