Having an experienced offensive line is never a bad thing for a high school football team.
For a team replacing its entire offensive backfield, it’s a godsend.
Arbor View finds itself in that situation, as the Aggies build around a strong offensive line in hopes of competing for the Northwest League title.
“We’re veterans up front, but we’re young in the backfield, and they’re really meshing well,” Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said. “It takes time. We don’t expect them to come right out and be our best. It takes time for the team to jell.”
The experienced line should help ease the transition for a stable of new running backs.
Senior Elijah George, a two-time all-state selection, is back to anchor the line. The 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pound George has scholarship offers from Oregon State, San Diego State and UNLV, among others.
Also back for his third season as a starter is 6-3, 250-pound senior Thomas Newton.
“Elijah and Thomas Newton are both solid kids,” Barnson said. “Elijah kind of speaks for himself. Newton, he’s a special kid, too.”
All-league defensive lineman Steven Davis (6-0, 220) will play on the offensive line as well, and center Frank Johnson (6-1, 240) gives the team another physical presence. Also back is all-league tight end Rasheed Parks (6-1, 240).
“Our front seven are pretty solid kids,” Barnson said. “They’ve played together for a few years, some of them for now going on their third year at the varsity level. We’re going to make some holes.”
That should help ease the loss of the team’s top four rushers, who combined to run for 3,032 yards last season.
Donnie Gaskin, who topped 1,000 the past two seasons, didn’t return to the team, and Roderick Eason, Steve Burns and Christian Rodriguez graduated.
Barnson is confident in the team’s new running backs, and having the experience up front doesn’t hurt.
“It’s good because they know they can lean on us and follow us through the hole,” Newton said. “And they trust us that the hole is going to be there.”
Barnson said juniors Devon Turner and Anthony Smith will get carries in his double-wing offense along with sophomore Larry Norman. Barnson said the team used six or seven backs in a recent scrimmage.
“We have some explosive kids, and we have some strong kids in the backfield,” Barnson said. “And our system kicks in, and now we’re going to see who really fits into our system.”
Defensively, the team must replace all-state defensive backs Burns and Eason.
“Our young kids are talented, and they’ve worked hard all offseason,” Barnson said. “We’re not asking them to replace those kids; we’re asking them to play football.”
Arbor View has gone 19-5 over the past two seasons, but the Aggies still don’t get the attention that Bishop Gorman and Palo Verde do in the Sunset Region.
“We’re used to being discounted; no one’s believing in us,” Newton said. “So we always take that as a little bit of motivation, because no one still believes in us even after the past two years.”
Newton said the team’s seniors aren’t just playing for this year. They’re laying a foundation for the future.
“We’re getting good senior leadership, pushing the young kids so that they get better, not only for this year, but so that in years to come they’ll be able to carry the team,” Newton said.