Arbor View football coach Dan Barnson doesn’t begin preparations for each new season until after track and field ends.
When that day came in May, Barnson held a meeting with several of his returning players.
“Immediately going into the summer, Coach Barnson called us in and said he was looking for us to steer the ship and take leadership over this team,” senior center Blake Coggins said. “Especially the offensive line.”
The Aggies’ double-wing offense is built around its offensive line, and this season’s group has developed into one of the best in school history. The unit will be key to Arbor View’s hopes for an upset today when the Aggies (11-0) host top-ranked Bishop Gorman (12-0) at 7 p.m. in the Division I Sunset Region championship game.
“We knew we had a senior-dominant line coming back,” Barnson said. “I think last year when Palo (Verde) beat us with their senior-dominant line, all our juniors said, ‘That’s going to be us next year.’ They took the bull by the horns, and there was no holding them back. And I’m proud of them.”
Arbor View has developed a tradition of strong line play in recent seasons, and two members of the Aggies’ offensive line in 2012 are currently redshirt freshmen at the Football Bowl Subdivision level — Elijah George (Oregon) and Thomas Newton (UNR).
The core of this year’s unit has been together since last season, when Coggins, Keenen King and Tyreace Smith joined returning starter Malik Noshi. The Aggies went 8-3 and reached the region semifinals in 2013, but Noshi said the new offensive line lacked consistency.
During the summer, the group lifted weights and also spent its free time together playing video games or watching TV. The chemistry that was developed carried over into this season.
“I’m not sure I could have predicted the offensive line last year. So, we had to really build up and find some leaders,” Noshi said. “Our chemistry is a lot better, and instead of one or two kids leading the team, we have the whole offensive line leading the team.”
Arbor View swept the All-Northwest League honors along the offensive line, as Coggins, King, Noshi and Smith were joined on the first team by Quemaree Harris, who took over at guard when Nate Hurley was injured in the first game. That group combines with tight ends Mitchell Durkee and Austin Ferguson and has paved the way for a rushing attack that averages 324.6 yards per game.
Arbor View running back Herman Gray set a school record with 319 yards against Legacy on Oct. 10 and has 1,646 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns this season.
The Aggies feature arguably the best set of tackles in the area with Noshi and King. The 6-foot-3-inch, 305-pound Noshi is a three-year starter and made an oral commitment to Northern Arizona. King (6-5, 290) is the lone junior of the five offensive linemen and their top prospect; he has a scholarship offer from Arizona State and is drawing interest from most of the Pac-12 along with Arkansas and Nebraska.
Coggins (6-7, 235) gives Arbor View an anchor in the middle, while Harris (6-2, 200) and Smith (6-1, 210) provide quickness at the guard spots.
The Aggies’ game plan against Gorman will be to run the ball and shorten the game as much as possible. King said it will be a tough task against the Gaels’ physical defense, but he and his fellow linemen are used to the challenge.
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.