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Sollenberger Classic: Desert Vista makes plan for a return tripAug 16, 2012 WHAT: 7th annual Sollenberger Classic
WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 18
GAMES: Moapa Valley (Overton, Nev.) 10-3 last season vs. Blue Ridge (Lakeside, Ariz.) 13-0, 3 p.m.; Palo Verde (Las Vegas) 11-1 vs. Desert Vista (Phoenix, Ariz.) 13-1, 7 p.m.
TICKETS: $10 for adults, $6 for students (ages 6-18) and children (5-and-younger) admitted free GLENDALE, Ariz. - Nick Farina's itinerary for the Desert Vista (Phoenix, Ariz.) football season hasn't changed even though the Nevada opponent for the Sollenberger Classic has from previous seasons.
"It's on TV and played at the Cardinals' stadium," the preseason All-State safety said. "It's a big show. We are pretty fired up about that, but at the same time we have to approach it like it is just another game.
"We'd like to have our first game and last game at the Cardinals' stadium."
The Thunder already pulled off the opposite – last game in 2011 and first game in 2012 – after winning the Division I state title and being selected to represent Arizona in the Sollenberger Classic, which celebrates its seventh year and second straight at mammoth University of Phoenix Stadium.
The game has largely featured championship teams from Arizona and Nevada and for the second straight year was co-sponsored by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) and the Arizona Cardinals.
So why not get ready and make it three games at the NFL stadium in a calendar year?
"That's our chance to go back and get another state championship," senior two-way lineman Dylan Fischer said. "We know it is going to take a lot of hard work but with the guys that we have I think we can do it. The only real difference I can see is that we had such a great bond and we are close to having the same kind of trust as last year.
"When you have people who you have played with from freshman to senior year it's a good thing. We have been together for so many years that there is trust there."
The trust and talent level will be tested Saturday at 7 p.m. against Palo Verde (Las Vegas) from Nevada in the Sollenberger.
It's the first time since 2009 and second since 2007 that Nevada wasn't represented by perennial national power Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), which went 1-2 in the Sollenberger. It made big news in Nevada but the reality is Palo Verde is an elite Nevada program and has a history that stacks up well against just about any program.
The Panthers play in Nevada's largest division (4A) and have gone 89-16 since 2004 with one state title.
"The players are excited about the opportunity to represent Nevada along with the chance to play in a great stadium," Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. "We were asked to play in this great game. It's becoming a great tradition and we are proud to be involved."
Palo Verde runs a double Wing-T, and bring back top rushers Lee Griggs and Ryan Beaulieu. The Panthers figure to pass more than most Wing-T teams. Defensively, they'll use a 4-3 and return a surplus of speed in the defensive backfield. That's something they'll need against swifty Desert Vista.
"They have very good skill players," said Rost, who started the program in 1996. "They are a top notch program. They have some nice kids returning and I've been impressed with their fundamentals."
More on Desert Vista-Palo Verde.
The battle between the two big schools is preceded by a match-up of two state finalists.
Moapa Valley (Overton, Nev.), which has finished as the Nevada 3A runner-up two years in a row, makes its second straight appearance after beating Show Low 28-26 last year. The Pirates take on Arizona 3A state champion Blue Ridge (Lakeside, Ariz.), one of the state's top programs with 12 state titles and four runner-up finishes since 1987.
Blue Ridge, which has gone 94-10 since 2004, features one of the nation's top outside linebackers in Chans Cox, who is committed to Arizona State and coming off shoulder surgery.
"I know they (Moapa Valley) are well-coached and I can see how they make adjustments," Moro said. "I do know that they have some skilled running backs and linebackers.''
Unlike the other coaches, Moro decided not to take advantage of the approved early start to the season.
"We didn't want to start in July. That's just crazy,'' he said. "We might be a few practices behind, but we will be OK.''
See more on Blue Ridge-Moapa Valley.
Sollenberger Classic history
The Sollenberger Classic honors the late Barry Sollenberger, a former AIA employee. As a sports historian, Sollenberger was devoted to the task of documenting the achievements of high school athletes in the state of Arizona.
* In 2006, the first game honoring Sollenberger was held at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University. Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.), the 2005 AIA 5A Division I state runner-ups, defeated Red Mountain (Mesa, Ariz.) 21-7.
* In 2009, the Sollenberger Classic was played in Reno, Nevada at MacKay Stadium on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. AIA 5A D-II defending state champion Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.) defeated NIAA 4A defending state champion McQueen (Reno, Nev.) 51-20.
* In 2010, the Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) Huskies and Bishop Gorman Gaels made their second Sollenberger Classic appearance in 2010 at NAU’s J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome. The Huskies, the AIA defending 5A-I state champion, defeated the Gaels, the NIAA defending 4A state champion, 24-17.
* In 2011, the Sollenberger Classic was hosted at University of Phoenix Stadium. This marked the first year the Classic would feature two games. In the first game, the NIAA Class 3A runner-up Moapa Valley defeated the AIA Class 3A defending state champion Show Low (Ariz.), 28-26. In the second game, the NIAA Class 4A defending state champion Bishop Gorman defeated the AIA Class 5A-II defending state champion Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.), 42-22.Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 17-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-272-2449.