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April 19, 2014

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high school football:

Gorman football ready for showdown against nation’s No. 1-ranked team

While some expect the Gaels to suffer a lopsided defeat, Gorman coach has confidence his players will turn in strong performance

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Bishop Gorman running back Daniel Stewart celebrates his touchdown against Servite during Gorman’s 41-17 win over the California school Friday, August 30, 2013.

Looking back at past Gorman games

Bishop Gorman lineman Chris Lalli carries the Gaels' standard out before their game against Crespi on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. Bishop Gorman won the game 42-9. Launch slideshow »
Prep Sports Now

Tornadoes and tirades

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer open this week's show by discussing the top-ranked high school football team in the nation, Florida's Booker T. Washington, coming to town Friday to take on Bishop Gorman. They then work their way into other pertinent topics, highlighted by a discussion of the definition of "athlete" and whether Green Valley can match Canyon Springs' "quickness".

The Bishop Gorman High School football team isn’t used to being in this role. Nor is the Nevada power expected to lose by this many points.

When the Gaels host Miami’s Booker T. Washington High on ESPNU at 7 p.m. Friday, some feel they are the clear-cut underdogs with no chance of victory against the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.

One reader on the Sun’s website has Gorman losing 52-13; another says the final will be 45-14 in favor of the visitors. The second prediction comes from a Gorman graduate.

Washington is led by senior quarterback Treon Harris, who is verbally committed to Florida State. Defensive back Nigel Bethel and defensive lineman Chad Thomas are each committed to Miami. All three players are considered four-star recruits and part of seven Washington players committed to Division I schools.

For Gorman, the four-time defending Nevada state champions with a 60-5 record over the past five seasons, the apparent uphill battle of facing what some believe is an unbeatable opponent is a challenge they are embracing with open arms. And, for the record, they certainly don’t view themselves as three-touchdown underdogs.

“Our kids understand we don’t need to do anything different,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “We need to go out and apply our trait like we always do.”

While Gorman’s five defeats in the Sanchez coaching era have come against quality out-of-state opponents, the Gaels' largest margin of defeat is just 14 points. In that game, a 28-14 loss in 2010 to powerhouse De La Salle of Northern California, Gorman led 14-7 at halftime.

Against in-state competition, Gorman hasn’t lost since being humbled by 36 points against Palo Verde in the 2008 Sunset Regional finals. That was the season before Sanchez, and his philosophy of scheduling the best competition nationally, arrived in Las Vegas.

In five quick years, Gorman has gone from winning one state championship in two decades to finishing ranked nationally each season. It’s an easy formula: Playing the best nationally gets Gorman ready to continue its state-championship streak.

And, when it comes to the best nationally, Washington is arguably the best team Gorman has lined up against. Just don’t expect the Gorman players, who have played more than their share of televised games against ranked opponents, to be overwhelmed.

“At the end of the day, this is just another one of those great teams,” Sanchez said. “Are they better than Armwood (Fla.)? Are they better than De La Salle? Armwood was No. 2 in the country (when they played in 2011). Hamilton (Ariz.) was No. 5. You have De La Salle that ended up No. 2; we played Chaparral, and they were No. 10. We had Servite, and that was a top-10 team.

“Honestly, and I’m not trying to downplay it, the degree of separation from the great teams we played is a matter of two or three few spots. So, we have been here before. We have played teams like this before.”

This is the sixth game against a stiff national opponent to open the Gorman season.

The Gaels, after losing by seven points to Arizona’s Mountain Pointe in the Sollenberger Classic in the season opener, have won four straight games. One game was in overtime at Santa Margarita in California; the other was two weeks ago at Bergen Catholic of New Jersey when Gorman scored the winning touchdown with less than a minute remaining.

They went from not being ranked after the loss to Mountain Pointe to a No. 18 ranking this week by Rivals.com. More important, the players have confidence they can play with anyone — even Washington.

“If we go out there and play our own game, we can hang with them and give ourselves a chance to win,” senior quarterback Randall Cunningham II said.

Senior QB Randall Cunningham

Randall Cunningham, Gorman senior quarterback, introduces himself, and talks about the upcoming year.

Washington’s track team had one of the nation’s top times this past spring in the 4X100 relay. All of the sprinters also play football, presenting a significant matchup problem for Gorman’s defenders. Wide receiver Deltron Hopkins, an Appalachian State commit, and Lamar Parker, a West Virginia commit, have potential for a big play each time they touch the ball.

The Washington players may be faster — they’ve been called a track team in football pads — but the talent level between the teams could be closer than most think. Washington is considered to have at least 15 Division I players; Gorman isn’t far behind.

“They have some burners. They can all run,” Sanchez said. “But we have some good guys on the back end, too. It’s not like we have a bunch of guys running around that haven’t played football before.”

Safety Armand Perry is committed to Arizona State, Cunningham is rated as the nation’s No. 13 dual threat quarterback prospect by Rivals and has scholarship offers from the likes of LSU and Baylor, and offensive lineman Nick Gates is a four-star prospect with an Alabama offer. The class of 2015 is equally impressive, including junior tight end Alize Jones, who is rated as one of 20 five-star prospects by Scout.com, and safety Nicco Fertitta, who already has four scholarship offers.

“I like our chances. I like the team I am playing with,” Gates said. “I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else. We are going to go out there and work as hard as we can.”

Either way, it’s expected to be one of those can’t-miss games.

Officials anticipate a standing-room only crowd at the 5,000 seat-capacity Fertitta Field. It’s an event, just like past national games, that Gorman takes pride in hosting.

“We have the Gorman faithful always there behind us,” Sanchez said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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