Arbor View volunteers to challenge No. 1 Gaels

If nothing else, Arbor View’s football team has proved one thing: The Aggies won’t back down from a challenge.

Even on a week they weren’t supposed to play.

On what was supposed to be its bye week, third-ranked Arbor View (7-1) instead stepped in to become top-ranked Bishop Gorman’s homecoming opponent, and the Aggies will play at Gorman (8-1) at 7 tonight.

“We’re always looking forward to a better challenge every week,” senior defensive back Steve Burns said.

The Aggies found that challenge when Western canceled its final three games, leaving Gorman without an opponent this week.

Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said he contacted Gorman late last week, initially to set up a final game for his junior varsity team, which isn’t scheduled to play next week. By last Friday afternoon, a varsity game had been set up as well.

“If Gorman was available back in March, we would have scheduled it back in March,” Barnson said.

What makes the matchup more intriguing is that the teams could meet in the Sunset Region semifinals if everything plays out as expected. But Barnson said he doesn’t think playing a prospective playoff opponent is a negative, either.

“We sat down as a coaching staff and felt there were more pluses than minuses,” he said. “We felt there were more advantages for us if we take this game. Everybody keeps saying, ‘They’re going to get reps against (our) double wing.’ Well, we get reps against Gorman, too.”

There is a bit of a revenge factor for the Aggies, too. The Gaels beat Arbor View 49-14 in the Sunset semifinals last year, the only game Barnson’s team has lost outside of Northwest League play since 2007.

“Let’s go play them. That’s the team we have to beat,” Barnson said. “Just like in division we’ve lost to one team in the last two years, Palo (Verde). If it would have been Palo with the bye week, we would have been calling Coach (Darwin) Rost. It’s that hurdle we have to get over. We want to challenge ourselves and challenge our kids.”

Among the many challenges Gorman presents is a terrific passing game, led by three-year starting quarterback Jarrett Solomon. This season he has completed 65.8 percent for 1,281 yards and 22 touchdowns while throwing only one interception.

That’s not something the Aggies have had to confront in the run-heavy Northwest.

“Their passing, that speed they have, I’m pretty sure we can cover it,” Burns said. “But we have to make sure we have that on lockdown. Our defense has put in a lot of work this week watching film so we can step up to the challenge and hopefully stop their offense.”

Even if the Aggies can’t stop Gorman, the extra work against the pass can only help in the coming weeks. Arbor View plays passing-oriented Faith Lutheran next week and probably will face another passing team in Bonanza in the first round of the playoffs.

The Gaels also have the area’s leading rusher in Shaquille Powell (1,308 yards), and Gorman shows several sets throughout the game. Arbor View, meanwhile, is a run-first team out of the double-wing formation.

“They run a lot of stuff,” Barnson said. “We run one thing, and we’re really good at one thing. Well, they run four or five things, and they’re really good at four or five things.”

The Gaels have scarcely been challenged by area opponents, outscoring six by a combined 368-13. Burns says Arbor View is well aware of the Gaels’ dominance, which only excites him more.

“People don’t think we have a chance, but our team, we do,” he said. “So hopefully we’re going to shock the world.”

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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