Updated September 30, 2022 - 11:41 pm
Arbor View’s football team took the field Friday night without its top two rushers.
Quarterback Michael Kearns and the defense made sure that didn’t matter.
Kearns threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score, and the Aggies returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns en route to a 45-3 road win over Palo Verde.
“We got back to some basics,” said Arbor View coach Matt Gerber, whose team was coming off a 63-0 loss to Bishop Gorman. “We got back to relying on our defense, and we put a lot of emphasis on that this week, and we saw the outcome there.”
The Aggies (5-1, 1-1 5A Desert League) limited Palo Verde to 90 yards of offense, and the Panthers (3-4, 1-1) crossed the 50-yard line only once. Arbor View also forced four turnovers.
“I still feel like we’ve got the best defense in the state, and it proved it tonight,” said Kearns, who passed for 174 yards.
Without leading rushers Makhai Donaldson and Richard Washington, Arbor View leaned more heavily on Kearns and the passing game. He completed his first nine passes, including a 43-yard scoring toss to Toa Howard that gave the Aggies a 10-3 lead with 11:07 to go in the second quarter.
Kearns was able to extend the play, roll to his right and find a wide-open Howard, who had slipped out of the backfield.
“We wanted to get our passing game going a little bit more and more, and slowly that’s coming along,” Gerber said. “Kearns, he’s starting to really get it, using his ability to run, and it’s coming together pretty well for him.”
After Tanner Aitken returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-3, Kearns scored on a 33-yard run with 12 seconds to go in the half to push the lead to 24-3.
“We got some other guys involved and just let Kearns do his thing,” Gerber said. “And he played a very good game tonight.”
Freshman Nylen Johnson, making his first varsity appearance, added an 11-yard TD run, and Christian Thatcher returned an interception 49 yards for a score with 4:09 to go in the third quarter to push the lead to 38-3 and trigger the running clock.
Kearns added an 18-yard scoring pass to David Washington with about 1:45 to go in the third quarter.
Kearns completed 15 of 21 passes and added 42 yards on eight carries.
The Aggies finished with three sacks and limited Palo Verde quarterback Crew Dannels to 4 of 15 passing.
“We had guys all over the place,” Gerber said. “I thought we covered them pretty well, too. When they tried to throw, there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities for them.”