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April 26, 2015

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high school football:

Not only is Gorman football back in the Sollenberger Classic, they will host this year’s two-game event


Justin M. Bowen

A look at Bishop Gorman football practice Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, as the team prepares for its season opener against nationally ranked Chaparral High of Scottsdale, Ariz., on Saturday at the Sollenberger Classic in Phoenix.

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One year after being snubbed for a spot in the Sollenberger Classic high school football game between Nevada and Arizona schools, four-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman High will host this year’s event in late August at Fertitta Field.

Officials from the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which organizes the game, also announced Tuesday that Station Casinos LLC will be the game’s presenting sponsor. Stations executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta are Gorman graduates.

The two-game event will be played on separate days, featuring Gorman at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 against Mountain Pointe of Arizona, the large-school division runner-ups in 2012. The following day at 7 p.m., Liberty will play Salpointe Catholic of the Tucson area.

The past two years, the Sollenberger Classic was played indoors at the Arizona Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium. But the event, which is in its eighth season, will have to be played on separate days this year to accommodate the summer heat. It’s been held six times in Arizona and once in cooler climate Northern Nevada.

Last year, Gorman was passed over because organizers said they wanted a more competitive game. In previous seasons, the defending state champions of each state were picked, and some people speculated Gorman’s exclusion was tied to its battle with the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association about its membership status.

But officials from the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which partners with the NIAA to host the game, disputed the claim and said no formal procedure was in place for selecting teams. Instead, Palo Verde High and Moapa Valley represented Nevada and would provide a more competitive game than nationally ranked Gorman.

The event is named after the late Barry Sollenberger, a longtime Arizona high school sports historian who left funds in a trust to support the annual border war to kickoff the season.

The bickering last year because of Gorman’s exclusion nearly caused the AIA, which selects the teams, to omit Nevada schools all together.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at

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  1. No small school game? Thats a little disappointing. However, I am excited for Liberty to get the opportunity to play in the Sollenberger Classic. If I'm not mistaken, Liberty will have 2 or 3 games against out of state competition. The only way for Liberty to have a change against Gorman is to play a tough non-conference schedule against good schools. I hope Gorman and Liberty both win and represent Nevada with class. The Sollenberger is a great event to showcase high school talent in Nevada and Arizona.

  2. It should be a great event. I hope that the kids are prepared for the heat.

  3. Liberty seems to understand if you want to beat the best, you need to play the best. I am so proud of Liberty for understanding the concept that not everybody gets a sticker. The ones who work harder for that next ladder rung get rewarded. Maybe if the other local schools start making phone calls to the powerhouse schools in our surrounding states Southern Nevada Football will be a better product.

  4. I would have loved to see this be a three game event but I overlooked the obvious heat issue for fans, refs etc.. if they were out the entire day. Very excited for this event and have to give credit to Liberty they are going out and scheduling some tough games. They will continue ti improve as a program because of it. Take not whiny northern nv teams and local too, liberty is doing exactly what they should and will certainly compete and one day beat gorman.

  5. Couple of thoughts:
    1. Very excited that this series is here this year. I have a vested interest in the game this year.
    2. Liberty is never going to beat Gorman. Gorman has superior facilities and talent. The only kids who go to Liberty are the ones who couldn't start at Gorman. IE: Nakua because he couldn't trump Anu at QB.
    3. It is good that Liberty is playing out of state. If you will think back to the mid to late 90's and early 2000's all the good schools at that time such as Vegas, Cimarron, and others played out of state opponents on a yearly basis.
    4. I hope Liberty continues open enrollment, it has allowed them to recruit...excuse me use a lottery system to improve their football team. This is the only way people will close the gap on Gorman.

  6. Aloha,

    Only one (1) question: I thought we played Arizona's State Champions, which was Hamilton. I might be wrong, but at least games are played here.

    We will be well represented from Gorman & Liberty.

  7. Guru...they'll beat them eventually. While the money behind the facilities has always been a great supporter of BGHS, eventually all of their boys will have graduated and it's not far fetched that they may be less involved and slightly less financially supportive as they've been laying the groundwork and basically building this program from rhe ground up.

    Take away a few televised game, throw in a couple sub .500 out of state opponent success rate and maybe interest slips.

    If there's one gripe I have about my alma mater it is the many many fair weather fans that don't show up if its not on espn.

    Trust me I would love to be wrong but Gorman winning state for the next 50 years just isn't going to happen.

  8. Awesome development for Liberty! Sorry Guru..seems some of your info is twisted. Kai Nacua played QB because we needed him to do so...not because he got trumped by Anu for the same spot at Gorman. Both were coming to Liberty 4 years ago. Anu got the opportunity to go to BG and he did so. He has shown this valley what he can do and has earned a scholarship which the Warrior community admire and hold in high esteem. Kai was a utility player for the Island Warriors while Anu was the QB. We moved Nacua to QB becuz he was needed there. And dont worry bout the Island Warrior program going anywhere. We are all still here and we are all still at Liberty! Much respect to the Gaels, but we are going to keep gunning for ya! No matter who comes to Liberty and for whatever reason, we will work with what we get and do the best we can with them. You are mistaken if you think Liberty's success is from "open enrollment". If anything, the Island Warriors players and the coaches have the most skin in the Patriot's success. The most exciting thing both schools work to maintain and/or improve their programs, there are going to be so many more athletes getting a college education because of their high school football careers at Liberty and Bishop Gorman!

  9. I'm happy for Gorman and Liberty. Congrats to Liberty for the aggressive schedule going out of state to play. I believe more schools would but it is a money issue for most. I would like to see the schools that don't have a money issue , take the challenge and go out of state. Get a home and home with other schools. The State of Nevada is not getting anything good coming from Gorman winning, we need more than Gorman to win to bring good things to Nevada. As long as we are a one horse circus we get no credit. I believe we are getting better but still have work to do.
    There are also athletes at other schools getting noticed, I was at the under Armour invite in Arizona. The Nevada kids who were there did our state proud. They had write ups about them on rivals. Canyon Springs, Desert Pines, and Mojave were impressive. The kid for Foothill looked very good at QB. As a state we are moving in the right direction. I am angry that the Nike Sparq was only done for the Gorman kids here in Nevada. If you don't go to Gorman you had to go to California. That's the power of money. I wont get into that now but I though that was BS on Nike. Everyone else thinks well of the Nevada kids,except Nike, they only think well of Gorman kids. Bad move by Nike.
    Everything some schools do don't get media attention,but there are some kids out there with scholarships that have not been mentioned, this year and in the past.