Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer sign off on the high school football season by dissecting the final game of the season, a state championship showdown between Gorman and Reed in Reno. They also praise for Liberty for its effort against Gorman in the semifinals.
That’s because the 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior is thriving in a position typically played by much taller and larger athletes — especially at two-time defending state champion Gorman.
But with three starters on the Gaels’ defensive line out with injuries, Martinez has made the most of his opportunity and become one of the powerhouse program’s unsung heroes. When Gorman on Saturday plays Reed High of Sparks in the 4A classification state championship game, Martinez will again be called upon to help the Gaels continue their streak.
With projected starters Jake Smirk, Marquis Hunkin and Ronnie Stanley each shelved with injuries, Martinez has made sure Gorman hasn’t missed a beat.
While Gorman has more than its share of Division I prospects on both sides of the ball, Gaels’ coach Tony Sanchez has often said it is the less-heralded players that make or break the program. And, in Martinez, Sanchez believes he has a great high school player.
“In high school football, you can get it done with a lot of character, and that is what it does,” Sanchez said. “As a coach, sometimes it's easy when you are there coaching some horses, but when you get a donkey to be a horse it is fun, man. And he’s become a horse.”
Martinez became a starter midway through the season when Smirk injured his kneecap. He recorded a sack against California’s Servite High in a nationally televised game and has been coming up with big plays ever since.
“I don’t really think about being small. I definitely don’t play like that,” Martinez said. “I just go out there and do what I’m told to do.”
Sophomore Zach Singer, who at 6-foot-2, 290 pounds is one of the area’s top defensive linemen, said it is hard to match Martinez’s work ethic. Martinez is also extremely strong, power-cleaning 285 pounds and bench-pressing 300 pounds.
“You should see him in the weight room,” Singer said. “He is one of the hardest workers on the team. His strength and work ethic stands out, which puts him up there with (the rest of the linemen) even though his size isn’t all there.”
Martinez also wrestles at Gorman, and credits some of the techniques and the footwork learned in the wrestling room for helping get around the blocking of an offensive lineman.
“Some of the wrestling throws work on the offensive linemen,” Martinez said. “They don’t expect someone to strike with them.”
Gorman is looking to become the first Nevada team in the large-school classification to win three consecutive championships since Wooster High did in the 1980s. The Gaels haven’t lost to a local opponent since 2008.
Winning another title will surely include contributions from an unlikely source — the Gaels’ 5-foot-8 defensive lineman.
“The kid is unbelievable. He has such a great work ethic,” Sanchez said. “For him to be as productive as he’s been in those big games, and helping us be ranked nationally, it’s just unbelievable.”