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Arbor View spoils ex-UNLV coach Sanford’s prep debut — PHOTOS

Updated August 27, 2021 - 10:13 pm

One of the trending videos on social media Friday was of Philip Rivers, the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback, talking about the thrill of guiding St. Michael Catholic of Alabama to a victory in his debut as a high school head coach Thursday.

Mike Sanford can relate to a lot of that.

Not about all those accolades as an NFL quarterback, though Sanford was good enough to back up Pat Haden at Southern California during the early 1970s. He also was UNLV’s head coach for five years and guided the Rebels to one of their biggest wins ever, a 23-20 overtime victory at No. 15 Arizona State in 2008.

On Friday night, Sanford, 66, coached his first regular-season game for Faith Lutheran. A half-hour before kickoff he was all smiles. Like Rivers, he said he was excited about returning to his roots.

But host Arbor View spoiled Sanford’s high school debut by grinding out a 23-3 victory in a Class 5A game played in oppressive heat.

“I’m actually loving what I’m doing, being at Faith Lutheran,” said Sanford, who has coached in storied rivalry games such as USC-Notre Dame (he was an assistant at both schools) and Army-Navy. As offensive coordinator at Utah, he helped Alex Smith become a Heisman Trophy finalist and the first player selected in the NFL Draft.

“I love the opportunity to coach these guys, to teach them,” he said. “There’s so many things they can learn about life in addition to the game of football.”

Faith trailed only 7-3 at halftime before Arbor View’s Gavin Smyth found David Washington on a crossing pattern that the speedy sophomore — who already is being courted by schools such as Ole Miss and Washington State — turned into a 72-yard touchdown catch and run midway through the third quarter.

The play seemed to suck the life out of Sanford’s team.

“He’s a big-time receiver and we had to start getting him the ball,” said Arbor View (1-1) coach Matt Gerber, whose team tacked on a safety on a blocked punt and a 44-yard TD run by another sophomore, Makhai Donaldson, in the fourth quarter.

Donaldson rushed for 225 yards on 26 carries and two TDs, with nearly all of the yards coming between the tackles. Harrison caught four passes for 112 yards, including the 72-yard back-breaker in the third quarter.

After a scoreless first quarter, Arbor View scored on the first play of the second on a 3-yard run by Donaldson. Faith countered with Caden Chittenden’s 38-yard field goal 4:13 before halftime that trimmed the Aggies’ lead to 7-3.

Faith, which moved the ball well on each of its four first-half possessions, drove to Arbor View’s 23-yard line with 11 seconds left before halftime. But time ran out when Ryan Walter’s pass to Peyton Steigerwald was broken up in the end zone.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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