LAS VEGAS – If Friday morning’s (Aug. 23) practice was any indication, Tucson Salpointe Catholic has a good chance to defeat Henderson (Nev.) Liberty High in Saturday night’s (Aug. 24) second game of the two-game Sollenberger Classic.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Fertitta Field on the campus of Bishop Gorman High School.
“This was by far the best practice we’ve had in the last week,’’ said coach Dennis Bene after the 7 a.m. workout. “We are focused. We are enthusiastic. We are excited to watch Mountain Pointe (vs. Bishop Gorman on Friday night).’’
The Lancers have had some team-bonding activities since practice began back in Tucson and were due to have a few more meetings on Friday afternoon, but Bene said the best bonding of all comes at the training table.
“We (coaches) have developed a good relationship with our players,’’ Bene said.
Salpointe plays its home games on an artificial surface back in Tucson and the Sollenberger games are on artificial turf. Friday’s practice was on an auxiliary field used for soccer that also has an artificial surface.
Is there an adjustment from one artificial surface to another, just as with normal grass fields?
“That’s the first thing they (players) wonder about is the turf,’’ Bene said. “They want to get out on it right away and test it.’’
Senior offensive lineman Breeon Auzenne said the turf here is “squishy,’’ compared to the Salpointe home field, “which is harder and feels more like playing like concrete,’’ he said.
Sleep is trending
Auzenne said he came to Las Vegas a few years ago with his family, but this has a different feel.
Asked what the best part of the trip has been thus far, he said, “Getting some sleep. There hasn’t been enough of that lately. We also watch TV in our room, maybe go out by the pool.’’
The hotel buffet also is a welcome sight to the players, especially a guy like the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Auzenne. The linemen have to make sure they keep their strength up while leading the way for the offense.
Auzenne lines up at left tackle, right tackle and right guard.
“It doesn’t matter where they play me, just so long as I can help us win,’’ he said.
He hopes to continue to play in college. His primary suitors are Washington and New Mexico State.
Looking at Liberty
Liberty coach Rich Muraco knows his secondary will have its hands full with Salpointe receivers Cameron Denson and Kaelin Deboskie.
The Patriots are young on defense (only two seniors) and have a freshman (Ethan Dedeaux) starting at safety. He also doubles as a slot receiver.
Asked about his offense, Muraco said, “I think if you asked most teams in Vegas, they would say that we are physical up front, heavy sets and we run the ball (four-man rotation). But our goal is to be more diverse, have balance.’’
He didn’t know much about Salpointe until recently, “but the good thing is, there is You Tube on the Internet and watch some of the schemes. But you never know how much they post (that is current). They can probably say that about us, too. They can can get an idea, see what we do, but they might find out that we have added a few things.’’
Bishop Gorman was last year’s Nevada big-school champ and Liberty was runner-up, so they are not short on talent. A handful of players from both schools were named to the Las Vegas Sun’s preseason All-City teams, released on Friday.
Bishop Gorman’s players are linebacker Nela Otukolo, offensive lineman Nick Gates, tight end Alize Jones, quarterback Randall Cunningham (son of the former NFL star), safety Armand Perry and defensive lineman Zack Singer.
Liberty players are offensive lineman Jarvis Polu, kicker/punter Austin Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Reno Tu’ufuli.
Tu’ufuli represented the U.S. on the Junior World track team and recently finished seventh in the discus in world competition in the Ukraine.