No. 8 Salpointe beats top-ranked Desert View with defense, strong running game

Salpointe’s Anthony Wilhite made a lot of yards after contact in the Lancers’ pivotal 48-0 win over Desert View on Friday (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The team with the potent running game and stifling defense — normal characteristics of the No. 1 5A team in the state, Desert View — took control of the game from the start Friday night at Jaguar Stadium.

Eighth-ranked Salpointe Catholic was that commanding presence in a 48-0 statement victory, showing upstart Desert View it still has that big-game moxie about them.

“Our respect to Desert View, they play a lot of Tucson teams, but playing Phoenix teams prepares you for a lot of things,” said Salpointe senior tailback Anthony Wilhite, who finished with 137 yards on 19 carries with four touchdowns. “We prepared our last two games. We played big Phoenix teams, a couple of dogfights.

“We came out with the momentum and left it all in the field tonight.”

Salpointe lost to Scottsdale Saguaro (ranked No. 4 in 5A) and Phoenix Pinnacle (No. 12 in 6A) in consecutive weeks before the anticipated showdown with Desert View, which tried to match its best start at 6-0 in school history.

The Jaguars, the only Southern Arizona team ranked in the Open Division at No. 6, instead are now 5-1 overall and start 0-1 in the 5A Southern after the loss to the Lancers, who are 4-2 and 1-0.

“I told them they acted like it was going to be handed to them,” said Desert View coach Robert Bonillas, whose team had more penalties (11) than first downs (six) and also had two fumbles and an interception.

“I told them I’m going to take the blame for not getting them ready for this game mentally.”

Salpointe rushed for 281 yards on 42 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per carry, with Class of 2023 prospect Elias Roberts contributing 72 yards on six rushes with two touchdowns. Dailan Goodman, another bruising junior running back, ran up the gut nine times for 55 yards.

“Our running backs work their tails off,” said Salpointe coach Eric Rogers, who is now 11-3 in his second year after taking over the program following Dennis Bene’s departure. “(Running backs) Coach Zach (Neveleff), he works them hard. They take a lot of pride in what they do and obviously they did phenomenal.

“I was really proud of Anthony. This was a big game for him. He wanted it. He wanted this challenge and show people what he is capable of doing, and he did. I’m really proud of him.”

Wilhite said he was afforded “big holes” opened by his linemen Luis Cordova (a Class of 2024 tackle offered a scholarship by Arizona) and the Lancers’ other big bodies up front including Luis Arellano, Lorenzo Mele and Carlos Gonzalez.

Desert View’s highly productive 1,000-yard running backs from two years ago — Serge Gboweiah and Carlos Alvarez — were held to a combined 82 yards on 12 carries.

Salpointe’s defensive front, led by Class of 2024 defensive end prospect Elijah Rushing, pressured effective Desert View quarterback Oscar Barraza continuously. Barraza was forced into 12 rushing situations, including three sacks, for 55 yards. Often under duress, he completed 3 of 20 pass attempts for 44 yards.

“It was tough in the first half getting a feel of it (Desert View’s offense), and we were able to adjust to that and execute the way we needed to, and you see the product on the scoreboard,” said Rushing, a who registered a sack.

He added that difference against Desert View’s sizeable, veteran offensive line was “our execution of being gap-sound, being in the gaps, staying there and being physical.”

Salpointe Class of 2024 defensive end Elijah Rushing credited the physicality of the Lancers’ defensive front for its effectiveness against Desert View (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

It was Salpointe’s offensive line that took control from the beginning against Desert View’s aggressive front.

A 15-play, 72-yard scoring drive on the Lancers’ first possession that included nine runs for 44 yards for Wilhite served notice of things to come for Salpointe’s execution. Wilhite, who also caught a pass from Treyson Bourguet for eight yards in the drive, capped the possession with a 2-yard touchdown run.

Bourguet completed 18 of 27 passes for 119 yards in the game.

Desert View had two three-and-outs and lost a fumble on its first three possessions and Salpointe scored three times on touchdown runs by Willhite to take a 20-0 lead with 11:53 left in the second quarter.

The Jaguars then had an interception and lost a fumble on the following two drives.

Willhite’s fourth touchdown run with 2:16 left in the half increased Salpointe’s lead to 27-0.

After two three-and-outs for Desert View to start the second half, the Lancers went up 34-0 with 3:16 left in the third quarter with Wilhite’s 25-yard run contributing to another touchdown possession. He almost had his fifth touchdown run but was stopped at the 1 and Bourguet ran it in on the next play.

Another fumble and a turnover on downs in Desert View’s next two possessions resulted in touchdown runs by Roberts of four and 25 yards to close the game.

“I told the kids all week that in a lot of ways this was our sixth game of the week,” Rogers said. “We play big games every single week. We know what to expect. We’ve been there. I told the kids I’m not worried who our competition is. I’m worried about us executing to our best ability.

“I thought when we played really good football teams (Saguaro and Pinnacle) the last couple of weeks they exposed us in some areas, and we needed to fix that. Our coaching staff and our kids really responded this week knowing we were coming into a great, hostile environment.”

Eric Rogers has Salpointe in position for another state playoff run in his second year as head coach (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Salpointe is next scheduled to play at Cholla on Friday, but that game is in question because the Chargers were forced to cancel their game at home Friday against Buena because of a lack of healthy players.

Desert View travels to Marana to face Mountain View, which plays Flowing Wells on Saturday night.

The Lancers and Jaguars face the challenge of improving their power points weekly going against teams that are rated below them in the 5A Southern. Flowing Wells is rated No. 25 in the 5A, Buena No. 31, Mountain View No. 34 and Cholla No. 40.

“We just have to focus on us and not worry about the competition,” Rogers said.


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

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