The Northwest League delivered excitement yet again Friday, and Arbor View has reclaimed its spot as the favorite.
At least in terms of the Arbor View, Centennial and Faith Lutheran triumvirate that has battled in the early portion of the league race, the Aggies have control.
Arbor View, which has won the last five Northwest titles, lost to Centennial 17-14 in its league opener, which ended its 26-game league winning streak.
In their next league game, the Bulldogs lost to Faith Lutheran 24-20. That left Arbor View with an opportunity to reassert itself against Faith Lutheran on Friday, and Justin Hausner’s 13-yard run with 2:35 left was the decisive blow in a 24-17 Aggies victory.
That means in the points-against tiebreaker system that the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association uses for three-way tie scenarios, Arbor View is plus-4, followed by Centennial at minus-1 and Faith Lutheran at minus-3.
While those three teams jockeyed for position, Palo Verde was quietly ascending to the top of the standings at 3-0. But the Panthers still have to run the Arbor View-Centennial-Faith Lutheran gantlet. Keeping their record unblemished will be a daunting challenge, especially considering they were outscored last season in those three games 129-19.
If the matchups among Palo Verde and the league’s three giants aren’t enough, there’s plenty of reason to believe there could be an upset elsewhere.
Start with Shadow Ridge, which has two losses by a combined four points (36-35 against Palo Verde in overtime and 24-21 against Centennial on Friday). The Bulldogs got a 62-yard touchdown pass from Colton Tenney to Gerick Robinson to escape with the victory.
And earlier in the season, Cimarron-Memorial led Arbor View 20-7 in the fourth quarter before the Aggies rallied for a 26-20 victory.
It’s highly likely this league race has a twist or turn left in it.
What we learned
— Liberty has a new dimension.
Patriots coach Rich Muraco made it clear he wasn’t disappointed with the way quarterback Kanyon Stoneking was playing when he made a change. He just felt the offense needed an added dimension.
Enter Daniel Britt.
The junior has been the pinpoint passer Muraco and the Patriots were hoping for since he took over as the starter late in the nonleague slate. Britt has completed about 80 percent of his passes for 864 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception, and showed off his speed on an 82-yard TD run Friday on which at least two Foothill defenders had an angle but couldn’t catch him.
While Britt has the offense rolling, the Liberty defense has allowed a total of three points in its three league games.
— Silverado has a stud in the backfield.
This isn’t necessarily new information, as Aginae Cunningham has run through opposing defenses all season, but he has been at his best in his team’s most important games.
That includes Friday, when he slashed what had been a stingy Clark defense that had two weeks to prepare for the Skyhawks for 237 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The junior’s 1,439 yards rushing and 16 TDs this season are No. 1 in the valley.
Cunningham’s ability to shoulder the offensive load has allowed Silverado (6-2, 4-1 Southwest) to clinch a postseason berth with one game remaining despite a young roster that includes a freshman starter at quarterback in Brandon Tunnell.
First glance ahead
With Nevada Day on Friday, games will be played Thursday.
Palo Verde begins its tough three-game stretch to end the season with a game at Centennial, while Faith Lutheran tries to bounce back against Shadow Ridge. Desert Pines puts its unbeaten record on the line against an explosive Legacy team in Northeast League action.
In the Southwest League, Clark and Desert Oasis will meet at Bonanza, with the loser probably eliminated from playoff contention. Green Valley travels to Foothill in a game that probably will decide second place in the Southeast League.