Gabe Toney didn’t know what to expect when he transferred from Shadow Ridge to Arbor View.
The senior linebacker/fullback was coming off two successful years with the Mustangs, including a junior season in which he had 152 tackles.
Although Shadow Ridge won just three games last year, Toney was going to a team that had even less success. The Aggies went 2-8 in 2007 and 1-9 in 2006.
But the 6-foot, 190-pound Toney fit in quickly. He has helped Arbor View to a 2-0 start with four touchdowns and 14 tackles, both team highs.
“At first, I was very questionable,” said Toney, who scored three first-quarter touchdowns in the Aggies’ 52-7 win over Durango on Friday. “I didn’t think I would probably even play as much on offense. But after I started to get to know everybody and watch everybody play, I believed we’d have a good season.”
Arbor View coach Dan Barnson had a pretty good idea of what he was getting. Barnson coached Toney’s older brother, Alex, when Barnson was an assistant at Centennial. Alex Toney now is a sophomore linebacker at Wyoming.
“It was very fortunate for us, because he flies around the field,” Barnson said of Gabe Toney. “He’s got a nose for the ball, and he’s shown that the last couple years with what he did at Shadow Ridge.”
Barnson said it didn’t take long for Toney to fit in with his new teammates.
“With any new kid, you’re always going to have that little bit of worry by the kids that are already here,” Barnson said. “But after a couple days, all our kids opened arms and accepted him. He fit in real well with all the kids.”
Barnson said that acceptance came in July when the team attended camp at Southern Utah.
“I think that really put him on our team,” Barnson said. “When kids spend five straight days together, they all learn each other.”
In addition to leading the team in tackles, Toney is the team’s second-leading rusher with 160 yards on 21 carries. He has rushed for two scores, returned an interception for a touchdown and returned a punt for another.
But Barnson said Toney’s attitude has made more of a difference to the team than his performance on offense, defense or special teams.
“His work ethic is what’s made the impact on us,” Barnson said.
Toney’s defensive impact also can be seen in the team’s scores through two weeks. Arbor View allowed an average of 30 points last season but has outscored opponents 67-14 this season.
On offense, Toney has added an explosive fullback to Arbor View’s double-wing offense.
Ryan Hill (256 yards, two TDs) and DeMarlo Virgil (156 yards, one TD) have combined with Toney to lead a rushing attack that has totaled more than 700 yards through two weeks.
“We’ve put his aggressiveness into our offense, and he’s fit in very well,” Barnson said. “It gives you that kid that can get a big block, a key block. He’s a hard runner, but he sells out when other kids are running the ball. He’s a blocker from hell.”
Now the biggest test for the Aggies is to see if the early success can translate once they start play in the rugged Northwest League.
The league features two of the area’s top teams in Cheyenne and Palo Verde and is traditionally one of the valley’s toughest.
“I can probably say this is going to be the year that we’re going to be able to compete with Palo Verde and Cheyenne and Cimarron and all of them,” Toney said. “I say we’re probably about equal with all the run games with everybody. We’ve just got to work on the little things.”