While the rest of Desert View’s units were getting situated for a practice this week, its offensive and defensive lines were a few feet away already breaking a sweat, entrenched in drills.
No-nonsense is the word to describe Desert View’s offensive and defensive lines led by intense tackle and end Alvaro “Chapo” Chaparro and businesslike guard and tackle Jose Roman.
No fooling around among the big bodies. Not many words, if it all, spoken in drills.
The same type of focus is apparent when watching Salpointe’s heralded offensive tackle Luis Cordova and defensive end Elijah Rushing, both of whom are sophomores but carry themselves like seniors.
If Friday’s anticipated 5A Southern opener between unbeaten Desert View (5-0) and perennial power Salpointe Catholic (3-2) is a game that will be won in the trenches, that matchup alone is worth the price of admission at Jaguar Stadium at 7 p.m.
“When we need them to milk some of that clock they’ve been able to stick to their blocks,” Desert View coach Robert Bonillas said of his offensive line, one of largest in Southern Arizona averaging about 6-foot-1 and 280 pounds.
“The fact they have been going both ways plays a big role in how tough they are. They take pride in that. We’re glad with their improvement up to this point and we still expect a lot more from them.”
In past years, Salpointe would enter a game like Friday’s as the ranked unbeaten Open Division team, but the Southsiders at Desert View carry that distinction and that’s largely because of its line play.
The Jaguars are ranked No. 6 in the Open Division (the top teams in the state from 4A to 6A) and the No. 1 team in 5A. Salpointe is the eighth-ranked 5A team in the state.
“Listen, Coach Bonillas has done an unbelievable job,” Salpointe coach Eric Rogers told 1450-AM’s “Eye on the Ball” radio show Wednesday. “He’s got a great coaching staff, great kids. They’re playing unbelievable. We’re very aware of that, trust me, when we watch the film.
“He’s got two of the best running backs going. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Those running backs — seniors Serge Gboweiah and Carlos Alvarez — have established themselves as two of the best players in the state at their position over the last three seasons beginning when they each rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the 2019 season as sophomores.
Linemen such as Roman, Chaparro, Hiram Medrano, Emanuel Samaniego and Omar Estrella have grown along with them, all seniors now. One of the best of the group, Miguel Medrano, is a junior.
“I think it’s a solid group (because) all of us have stuck together the last four years,” Chaparro said of the seniors. “We’ve put in (a lot of) work. I think it’s showing now with the weight room. We have that part over (opponents) because we’ve been in there every day.”
Because of that type of work ethic, Desert View has one of the most potent and balanced offenses in the state with the running of Gboweiah and Alvarez and the dual threat ability of senior quarterback Oscar Barraza, a converted receiver who looks like he has been behind center all of his career.
Desert View is averaging 211.2 rushing yards a game and Barraza has thrown for 630 yards while completing 30 of 58 passes with nine touchdowns and only two interceptions.
His counterpart Friday, Division I prospect Treyson Bourguet, has comparable numbers with 655 passing yards with 47-of-85 passing with nine touchdowns and one interception. Bourguet has rushed for a career-best 307 yards on 42 carries this season while Barraza has not relied on the run so much with 51 yards on 12 carries.
The fact that Barraza has recorded only 12 rushes through five games shows how the offensive line has prevented pressure from opposing defensive fronts while also allowing Gboweiah (pronounced BO-way) and Alvarez to consistently extend drives with their running.
“We get the plays down and we have a bond that helps us to make sure we know the plays,” said Roman, whose father Jose is a volunteer line coach for Bonillas.
Gboweiah earned an Ed Doherty Award Nomination Medallion after gaining 315 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns in the 46-28 win over previously unbeaten Marana on Oct. 1. He was also the AllSportsTucson.com APS Digital/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week after that game.
Those are honors the offensive linemen share with Gboweiah although their names are not on the medallions and banners.
“At the end of the day, we don’t need the publicity because we’re linemen,” the younger Roman said. “That’s our job — we execute. We protect them, make sure they get the yards.”
Their stiffest test to this point will be going against Salpointe’s defensive front led by Rushing, who picked up a Division I offer from Washington on Wednesday after Arizona and ASU have offered, and middle linebacker Joey Sumlin, a son of Kevin Sumlin who will play college football somewhere.
“I love where I’m at right now, but I have so much more I can improve on,” said Rushing, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound athletic end who has recorded seven tackles for loss, including four sacks this season. “Every day, I go against Luis Cordova (a fellow Class of 2024 prospect who has been offered by Arizona and has plenty of Division I programs in his sights including Notre Dame).
“It builds confidence for both of us. Once we see people who are not D1 (potential) it’s just easier. When we see people in D1 (recruiting), it’s not anything new. We know it’s business whenever we go against them.”
Desert View’s line may not have a D1 prospect — although Samaniego at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds is drawing interest from recruiters — but the Jaguars certainly have the experience and the mentality to handle challenges of the highest degree.
Chaparro said the idea that Desert View is not accustomed to a big-game atmosphere like Salpointe has experienced through the years is “dumb because we worked hard to get to where we are at right now. We put ourselves in position to be in these games.”
The Jaguars have certainly taken on the characteristic of their coach.
Bonillas is all business during practice and on the sideline during games. When Desert View scores a touchdown, he looks the same as if the Jaguars turned the ball over on downs, only less vociferous.
He handles all tasks with a purpose, a trait learned from playing under the late Dick Tomey at Arizona from 1995-98.
“It didn’t matter if we went 0-10 or playing for a championship, he always preached about getting better,” Bonillas said. “Believing in yourself, obviously, was the main one and with that, being together, you can accomplish a lot of great things.”
The work Bonillas and his staff have applied to the growth of the program will be on display for the state to see Friday night in front of what will be an expected overflow crowd at Jaguar Stadium.
Since a pair of 3-7 seasons following an 8-3 record in 2016, Bonillas has coached the Jaguars to a 12-4 record over the last three years. The Jaguars are on a six-game winning streak dating to last season and have won 10 of their last 12 games going back to 2019.
“Friday will come and that will be a great opportunity to see how we stand as a program,” Bonillas said.
If actions and looks are any barometer, Chaparro, Roman and Co. — intense from the start of practice — are ready for Salpointe’s challenge.
When asked why Desert View is unbeaten at the midway point of the season, the younger Roman said simply: “Good coaching.”
“That’s basically it,” he said. “We take it serious. It’s a statement season.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District