While there was some contention as to what Division I team would represent Arizona in the Sollenberger Classic, Salpointe Catholic (Tucson, Ariz.) was in as soon as the Lancers were approached.
“I said yes right away, regardless of opponent,” Salpointe Catholic coach Dennis Bene said. “When our kids look back on their high school years there is something they’ll always remember. It’s special honor. A lot of our kids have never traveled before and will get to experience a place like Las Vegas.
“It was a no-brainer.”
Andrew Cota threw for 3,887 yards
and 36 touchdowns last year.
Salpointe plays in the second game of the Sollenberger on Saturday at Bishop Gorman’s Fertitta Field when the Lancers will find Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) on the other sideline.
The Lancers have been one Southern Arizona’s top programs, going 112-28 since Bene took in 2001, while making the postseason all but one year (on probation in 2009 for recruitment of an eighth grader) since 2004.
The team leaves Thursday for Las Vegas in order to partake the in the Sollenberger Classic Banquet at Bishop Gorman. The seating is expected by position with a member each of the four teams sitting alternately next to each other.
While all the peripheral aspects of the trip, like the banquet, staying at the Palace Station Casino and seeing the fountains at the Bellagio, the game is the main attraction.
The Lancers have two of the state’s premier players in three-year starting quarterback Andrew Cota and Mr. Everything Cameron Denson along with newcomer Kaelin Deboskie, who averaged 101.5 yards receiving for Colleyville Heritage (Texas) last season.
Cota has passed for 3,887 yards with 36 touchdowns and five interceptions the last two years and has complete control of the offense.
“There is a great comfort level with him behind center,” Bene said. “He has taken on more responsibility each year and has total autonomy of the offense. He can change the plays at the line and understands when there is a bad call. I like the way he runs the offense.”
With that said, Bene said the defense is the strength of the team and the Lancers will have their hands full in Liberty, which has gone 41-10 since the start of the 2009 season.
Jarvis Polu, Liberty
The Patriots have bumped up their schedule to try and keep up with Gorman, which has won four straight Nevada big-schools.
In addition to the Sollenberger, Liberty will take on Arizona state champion Hamilton and California power Centennial.
“We have been real upfront with the kids,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said in January to the Las Vegas Sun. “We have kind of preached to them our goals and where we want to take the program and how we want to make some noise on the national scene. They are excited. At the same time, they know we have to work hard and stay committed.”
And the payoff is about to come with a high-profile game that is bound to create some memories.
“This is going to be a tremendous experience,” Bene said. “More importantly, all of the hours my assistants put in and all of the work the players did this summer has us prepared and this is a nice reward.”
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.