As the high school football season opened, Liberty and Del Sol looked to be the teams to beat in the Southeast League.
But that was before Foothill opened the season 4-0, and before Green Valley beat Foothill, and before Class 3A Moapa Valley knocked off Del Sol.
But all that doesn’t diminish the importance of today’s game, as seventh-ranked Del Sol (3-1, 1-0 Southeast) plays at fifth-ranked Liberty (3-1, 1-0) at 7 p.m.
“Every league game is huge. Liberty obviously is a little bit bigger, because you figure they’re going to win more than they lose in league, so they’re going to be up there at the top,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said. “Winning a game against them, I think, would put us in the driver’s seat in the league.”
Green Valley has taken the early lead in the league standings at 2-0. Foothill and Basic sit behind Liberty and Del Sol at 1-1. And even Coronado and Silverado, both 0-2 in league, have shown signs of being capable clubs. Coronado lost by four points to Foothill, and Liberty came from behind last week to capture a 26-20 win over Silverado.
“It’s just one of those weird years,” Goroff said. “Everybody’s kind of got some good parts to their teams, and I don’t think anybody’s put it all together yet. There’s no team that’s emerged to be a front-runner. Everybody has shown signs of being a good team, but no one’s really been super consistent with it.”
Del Sol traditionally has played with a small roster, and that hasn’t changed this season. But injuries have left the Dragons even thinner than usual, and Goroff said the team will be without four starters tonight.
“We practiced with 27 (on Wednesday),” Goroff said. “It’s getting fun.”
Senior tight end/defensive lineman Tanner Cranor said replacing the injured players is even tougher for Del Sol, since most players play offense and defense.
“We have a lot of two-way players, so it’s kind of hard to replace two people when one comes out,” Cranor said. “But we’ve had our juniors stepping up, and they’ve been doing a pretty good job.”
Goroff said the key will be getting defensive stops against Liberty’s patient ground attack, led by junior Niko Kapeli (96 carries, 647 yards, nine touchdowns).
“They do a great job of getting positive yards every play,” Goroff said. “They do a great job with their scheme of just being patient with it and not really worrying about the big play and just moving the chains and wearing their opponents down.
“We’ve got to be able to match their energy early, often and all the way through the game.”
Cranor said the Dragons are up to that challenge.
“This is one of our bigger games this year,” he said. “It’s one we’ve been looking forward to for a while.
“As long as I’ve known them, they’ve been a team that plays hard and plays for the whole game. And that’s the kind of football we like to play here.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at email@example.com or 702-380-4587.In-depth high school sports coverage
TODAY’S CLASS 4A FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
• Arbor View at Shadow Ridge, 10 a.m.
• Sierra Vista at Clark, noon
• Spring Valley at Desert Oasis 1 p.m.
• Durango at Pahrump Valley, 1 p.m.
• Eldorado at Desert Pines, 1:30 p.m.
• Las Vegas at Valley, 3 p.m.
• Canyon Springs at Sunrise Mountain, 4 p.m.
• Faith Lutheran at Moapa Valley, 5 p.m.
• Coronado at Green Valley, 6 p.m.
• Del Sol at Liberty, 7 p.m.
• Basic at Silverado, 7 p.m.
• Rancho at Chaparral, 7 p.m.
• Legacy at Cimarron-Memorial, 7 p.m.
• Centennial at Mojave, 7 p.m.
• Palo Verde at Cheyenne, 7 p.m.
• Bonanza at Western, 7 p.m.