Desert View remains unbeaten running to victory over Marana behind Gboweiah, Alvarez

Desert View celebrates its 4-0 start after beating Marana 46-28 on Friday night (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Desert View coach Robert Bonillas was one of the last people to get on the school’s three buses headed back to the southside from Marana, and just like the week before at Thatcher, he was welcomed by a loud scream from his jubilant players.

It seemed like his Dynamic Duo senior backfield of Serge Gboweiah and Carlos Alvarez ran about the same length that it would take for the Jaguars to go from the far northwest side to their campus at Alvernon and Valencia in the 46-28 win over previously unbeaten Marana on Friday night.

Gboweiah (pronounced BO-way) and Alvarez combined for 444 of Desert View’s 473 yards rushing in the victory that improved the Jaguars’ record to 4-0, its best start since 2016 when Bonillas coached the school to a 6-0 start en route to an 8-3 season.

Gboweiah was especially dominant against Marana rushing for a career-high 315 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns. Alvarez gained 129 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns and three 2-point conversion runs.

Oscar Barraza provided some balance passing for 105 yards with a touchdown.

“Coach Bo just told us to come, play and do our game,” said Gboweiah, who pound-for-pound at a svelte 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds is arguably the strongest and swiftest runner in Southern Arizona and right up there in the state.

Bonillas is as intense as they come during a game, but after Friday’s win, standing alone by the team buses as his team filed in, he managed to crack a smile. He knows, however, the work toward a memorable season has just begun.

Desert View is off to only its fourth 4-0 start in the 36-year history of the program.

The three previous times that happened:

— 1998 under Jeff Feldman, the Jaguars wound up losing four of their last six games and missed the state playoffs.

— 2009 under Jim Monaco, they lost five of their last six games and were shut out of the playoffs again.

— 2016 with Bonillas as coach, the Jaguars started 6-0 and finished 8-3 after advancing to the state playoffs, where they lost to Queen Creek 63-0 in the first round.

“They are believing in themselves and they’re doing the little things we’re asking them to do,” Bonillas said of this year’s team. “That’s good to see, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to do the little things so we can make that run at the end of the season.”

Marana came into the game in search of its first 5-0 start since 1998 under Marty Honea, and the Tigers looked like they could accomplish that feat until late in the first half.

Marana led 14-12 with 8:11 left in the second quarter on Matthew Jensen’s 40-yard run off a lateral pass (in which he dropped the ball but scooped it up and ran to the end zone) and Elijah Joplin’s 21-yard touchdown sprint.

The Tigers were driving again for a potential score but a lost fumble stopped their drive at the Desert View 16 with 1:54 left before halftime. That was Marana’s second lost fumble in the red zone and third overall in the first half.

“We had too many turnovers in the red zone and they scored off of it,” said Marana first-year coach Phillip Steward. “They took advantage of our turnovers and that’s what got them up by two touchdowns.”

Barraza closed the first half completing three passes for 80 yards on a drive that culminated with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Enrique Cancio. Alvarez’s 2-yard conversion run put Desert View ahead 20-14 with 17.1 seconds left in the half.

Marana took advantage of Desert View’s fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half with Joplin connecting with Jaelen Collins for a 2-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers ahead 21-20 with 10:45 left in the third quarter.

Desert View’s Serge Gboweiah is a threat as a running back and cornerback (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com_

Joplin, a junior, completed 25 of 39 passes for 269 yards with a touchdown and interception. The Ed Doherty Medallion Nominee last week for his 338-yard, five-touchdown performance in a win over Flowing Wells, also rushed for two touchdowns against the Jaguars.

Marana’s Sam Brown caught five passes for 90 yards — and snared two interceptions as a defensive back — and running back Matthew Jensen had seven receptions for 111 yards to go with his 39 yards rushing on six carries.

Following Joplin’s touchdown pass to Collins early in the second half, Desert View’s sizeable line started to take over.

A 73-yard drive that consisted of nine rushes, including a 19-yard score by Alvarez with 1:37 left in the third quarter, gave the Jaguars a 28-20 lead.

Alvarez noted that when Desert View’s line wore down Marana’s defensive front “I started feeling confident in myself, especially because I am the one who they look up to. Huge shout out to my linemen. If it wasn’t for them, none of this would happen.”

The defensive line, led by senior end Alvaro Chaparro, also increasingly put plenty of pressure on Joplin. Chaparro, who led Southern Arizona with 10 sacks in 2019, had four against the Tigers, giving him seven for the season.

“I feel like I played great. I feel like it was a statement,” said Chaparro. “My sophomore year I had 10 sacks. I led Southern (Arizona). I felt like everybody forgot about me. … I’m just here to prove a point. Senior year. Gotta go strong.”

Knowing that Marana has a passing offense excited Chaparro, who goes by the nickname “Chapo.”

“I love seeing passing games because they pass more,” Chaparro said. “I don’t really like the running game because it’s boring. If I see (the passing game) on tape, I’m going to take advantage of it.”

The lead increased to 30-20 on a safety on the last play of the third quarter following a snap over the head of Marana’s punter into the end zone.

Desert View’s ensuing drive started at its 38-yard line, and four plays later — including a 26-yard run by Alvarez and 25-yard scoring run by Gboweiah — the Jaguars increased their lead to 38-20 with 9:42 remaining.

Brown’s second interception of the game led to a Marana touchdown two plays later — Joplin’s 6-yard touchdown run with 2:17 left to cut the lead to 38-28.

The onside kick failed and Desert View had the ball on its 44. On the Jaguars’ first play of that possession, Gboweiah sprinted free to the left for a 56-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 46-28 with 2:06 remaining.

All that was left was the celebrating and the joy ride back to the southside.

Bonillas could have drove home in his car with Marana on the outskirts of Tucson.

Not his style.

He could have also balked at the idea of agreeing to schedule a game at 3A powerhouse Thatcher last week after Sahuaro was forced to cancel its game with the Jaguars because of COVID-19 protocol.

Not his style.

Thatcher’s game with Douglas was also canceled because Douglas had a lack of healthy players.

Robert Bonillas has won eight of his last 10 games as Desert View’s coach dating to the 2019 season (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“I wanted to play that game (at Thatcher), but I had to ask the kids if they were ready, and they said, ‘We want to play,'” said Bonillas, whose team beat Thatcher 28-6, spoiling that homecoming as well.

“I believe even if they would have needed a game and we didn’t, we would have played and had 11 games. I did that so that one day if I needed a game, we could be helped.”

The team comes first.

He is a protégé of the late Dick Tomey, after all.

The team. The team. The team.

That was one of Tomey’s simplistic yet very impactful mottos when he coached Bonillas and Arizona.

Bonillas, a member of the 12-1 Arizona team in 1998 as a tight end, is carrying on that spirit with the unbeaten Jaguars.

“As far as the overall picture, it’s a long season,” Bonillas said. “Having that week off two weeks ago (before playing at Thatcher) reenergized them. They have played more as a team and the results are happening their way now.

“We have a lot of work to do but our guys know how to put in that work. This is a team that values their practices to get better..”


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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