The High Desert of Southern California is a gritty place.
It is brutally hot in the summer
and teeth-chattering cold in the winter, and with a strong wind that whips
Until recently its most famous resident was Roy Rogers, the late crooning cowboy who made Apple Valley his home.
Although Roy Rogers is gone and his
museum in Victorville has moved to
This is easily the best team in the
seven-year tenure of coach Frank Pulice, the former
The fact that another school, Granite Hills, opened across town, didn't help.
"Granite Hills opened during my first year in 2000," Pulice said. "They take away a lot of talent. We played them last week and we were looking at some of the players and thinking what a heck of a team we'd have if there was just one school."
Once at a bustling 3,000-plus
Asked if there was anything to
indicate this would be a special season, Pulice said: "We went 7-4 last season
and lost 43-35 at
Pulice said he simply has a special collection of athletes, one that happens to magically arrive at a school at the same time, once every decade, or maybe quarter-century.
The Sun Devils haven't been unbeaten this late in the season since 1984 when it started 8-0 under former coach Dan Hook, now the school's assistant principal and a valued advisor and source of wisdom for Pulice. That '84 team finished as tri-champions of the San Andreas League and went 10-2 overall.
Tailback Anthony Ambers (1,120 yards rushing, seven touchdowns) leads this year's Sun Devils. He is aided on offense by junior quarterback Phil Rivera (700 yards passing, seven touchdown passes) and wideout Corry Johnson (15 catches, 280 yards, four touchdowns).
The Sun Devils' stellar defense is led by linemen Kris Barr (6-4, 240),
Anthony Morales (5-11, 250) and Jordan Bernal (6-3, 240) , along with outside linebacker Jumanee Bey (6-3, 220) and free safety Johnson, who has six interceptions.
Another special player is Greg Gilmer, who plays outside linebacker on defense, tight end on offense and also does the team's placekicking and punting. He is only 5-11, 175 pounds.
"Every coach and player respects him," Rohrbaugh said. "He puts in a lot of work beyond what he needs to. And he only has three rules: Do the right thing. Do your best. And do unto others."
Pulice and wife Lisa are regulars
"It's been unexplainable," Pulice said. "We're just blessed with some great athletes this year. These things go in cycles and this is a group that's been successful on every level.They just know how to win."