Aggies embrace Gaels challenge

Arbor View football coach Dan Barnson has heard the whispers from those who don’t believe his team can win a championship running the double-wing offense.

He’s not listening.

The Aggies (10-1) won’t change their identity when they play at Bishop Gorman (12-0) for the Division I Sunset Region title at 7 p.m. today. The Gaels are ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today.

“We do what we do,” Barnson said. “We’ve won a lot of games over the last six, seven, eight years. And we’re very proud of everything that this program is about. And I don’t think we’re going to sit there and OK, we’re going to drop everything just to do this. They’ve played teams that have done everything against them. Every team that’s run spread against them hasn’t done anything, either.”

Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez doesn’t think the Aggies should change, either. He points out the success Arbor View has had over the past five seasons, posting a 58-11 record. Five of those losses have come to Gorman.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” Sanchez said. “They’ve won a lotta, lotta football games. It’s basically because they run such a good program there. They run the ball very effectively, and I think some people outside of their program look at their offense and think, ‘you can’t win with that kind of offense.’ But they’ve won tons of games with that kind of offense. They do some really good, unique things that you’ve got to get ready for.”

It’s difficult to pass out of the double wing, which features three backs, two tight ends and no receivers, with all 11 players packed closely to the line of scrimmage. But it’s also been difficult for opponents to stop the Aggies, who have rushed for an average of 290.2 yards a game this season.

Keeping the clock running and moving the chains will be the primary focus for the Aggies, as they try to keep Gorman’s explosive offense off the field.

“We want to have long drives, and keep the ball in our hands as long as we can,” said Curtis Jones, who leads Arbor View with 1,032 rushing yards and 11 TDs.

Sanchez said Arbor View’s ability to control the ball has been more impressive than their margins of victory.

“Last week they won 28-14 over Desert Oasis, but if you watch that game, they dominated the entire game,” Sanchez said. “They had the ball a lot. Their defense plays really good, but they’re not trying to score 60, 70 points. They’re just trying to run the clock out, keep your offense off the field and score some touchdowns.”

It’s Gorman that appears to be trying to score 60 or 70. Or at least that’s what they’ve done against every Nevada opponent this season. The Gaels have averaged 66.3 points against local opponents, scoring at least 63 in all six games.

Biaggio Ali Walsh leads the area with 1,914 rushing yards and has scored 25 touchdowns. Tate Martell has passed for 2,078 yards and 25 TDs, and also rushed for 455 yards and nine scores. Receiver Tyjon Lindsey is a threat to score with each touch. He has 36 catches for 904 yards and 11 TDs.

“They do so much, and everything they do, they do so well,” Barnson said. “When they do something, it’s at such a high level, which is hard for us to replicate throughout the week to show them. When you watch film, it’s hard to get that perspective.”

Barnson said it’s a unique opportunity for his team to take on the nation’s top-ranked team again this season. Gorman beat the Aggies 56-6 in last year’s Sunset title game.

“You get to play the No. 1 team in the country; that’s pretty cool,” Barnson said. “It’s great for our city, everything they’ve done. It’s kind of a step-by-step type game. We’ve got to go in, get the ball, take care of the ball and grind out some first downs and we’ll see if the ball will bounce our way once or twice and see what happens.”

Jones said he and his teammates aren’t in awe of Gorman, believing they can hold their own with the Gaels.

“It’s a big opportunity for everyone here,” Jones said. “We’re just going into this game thinking they’re the same as everyone else. We’re all high school kids, and that’s how we have to go into this game. No. 1 in the nation is just a label. We’re going to go in there with our heads up and go to war.”

— Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or Follow him: @DamonSeiters