Arbor View football faces early tests

Last season's Northwest League football race came down to the final week of the regular season when two undefeated teams squared off for the title.

That probably won't happen this year, but only because Arbor View and Palo Verde meet to start league play, not to finish it.

And with eight offensive starters back, including three 1,000-yard rushers, the Aggies are hoping for a different outcome this time after falling to Palo Verde 17-0 last season.

"Our kids battled and they played, and it was a great setting," Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said. "The stadium was packed. You don't get that too often, especially in Las Vegas anymore. It made for a fun night, and unfortunately we ended on the wrong side."

That loss, along with a 49-14 loss to eventual state champion Bishop Gorman in the Sunset Region semifinals, has spurred the Aggies heading into this season.

"We feel like we have something to prove," senior running back/defensive back Roderick Eason said. "We fell to Gorman last year, and it was disappointing how our season ended, and we just feel like we have something to prove this year."

It won't take long to find out just how good this year's Arbor View squad is. The Aggies, 10-2 last season, open against defending Sunrise Region champion Liberty on Friday. Arbor View starts league play Sept. 1 at Palo Verde, then hosts Centennial, which advanced to the Sunset semifinals last season, on Sept. 9.

Liberty opened the season ranked No. 3 by area coaches. Palo Verde is No. 2 and Centennial No. 7.

But Eason thinks playing some of the toughest teams in town early will help Arbor View, ranked No. 4.

"It's a good advantage, because in the past Arbor View's been known for starting off hot," said Eason, a second-team all-state pick at defensive back last season. "So by us having those good teams up first, it should be a good thing. Our first three games are our hardest games of our season."

Any opponent will have to focus on stopping Arbor View's running game. The Aggies return three players -- Donnie Gaskin (1,241 yards), Eason (1,136 yards) and Christian Rodriguez (1,027 yards) -- who topped the 1,000-yard mark last season in Arbor View's double-wing offense.

"It's not like a traditional I-formation where you sit back and everybody's keying that one kid," Barnson said. "We're definitely going to spread it out. And on the flip side, if a kid gets hot, we're going to run him. Sometimes kids, it's their game, and it just kind of happens that way."

The Aggies aren't just strong in the backfield. They also return three offensive linemen -- tackle Elijah George and guards Jordan Mock and Thomas Newton -- who started all 12 games a year ago.

"Everybody's real familiar already," Mock said. "Last year we came out and had a lot of juniors and sophomores on offense, so it took a lot of time to get familiar with each other. This year we come out and we already have the chemistry."

Arbor View appears poised to challenge Palo Verde again for the top spot in the Northwest. The Panthers have claimed three of the past four league titles.

Whoever wins the Northwest has two-time defending state champion Gorman looming in the Sunset playoffs.

"Last year's done," Barnson said. "Now let's go. We build off that, we're proud of what we've done, and we've learned a lot of positives and negatives from last year, but this is this year's team."

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at or 702-380-4587.