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December 20, 2014

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kickoff 2014:

With challenging schedule, Gorman football plans to take one game at a time

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Bishop Gorman High School football players Noah Tialavea, Alize Jones, Nela Otukolo, Jackson Perry and Jabari Butler on Monday, July 21, 2014.

The message hasn’t changed all summer for the Bishop Gorman High football team. The Gaels’ goal is simple: Go 1-0.

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Prep Sports Now

Running through the high school football teams

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer return to the studio to discuss all of Las Vegas' high school football teams a week before the start of the season.

The five-time defending state champions open the season Friday by hosting Phoenix’s Brophy Prep in the Sollenberger Classic, playing in the first of six games in consecutive weeks against a respected out-of-state opponent.

After Gorman was ranked No. 1 by USA Today in its preseason poll, it would be easy for players to look ahead in the schedule. If Gorman goes undefeated, it would be national champions, after all.

That’s why coaches have stressed the approach one game at a time. Don’t look forward to next week’s game in Southern California against No. 19 Servite until the game with Brophy Prep ends.

“We have a six-week gauntlet that no one in the nation is taking,” said Nela Otukolo, Gorman’s senior linebacker. “The main thing for us is one game at a time and not getting overwhelmed by looking at the whole picture.”

The philosophy is especially important considering Gorman’s past experiences in the Sollenberger game. Of Gorman’s seven defeats since 2007, three have came to Arizona opponents in the Sollenberger, including in 2008 to Brophy Prep.

Gorman, since Tony Sanchez was hired as coach in 2009, has gone from a state power to a national power, using games against notable opponents to earn its place as one of the nation’s best. They’ve finished in the top-25 nationally in at least one ranking since 2009, losing just five games in the Sanchez coaching tenure.

“Every team we play, it is probably the biggest game on their schedule,” Sanchez said. “We have earned that, but at the same time it hasn’t helped us win any games.”

Gorman has Division I prospects at most positions, including tight end Alize Jones and wide receiver Cordell Broadus, who is the son of the rapper Snoop Dogg. Jones is the nation’s top ranked tight end and committed to UCLA, and Broadus is a four-star recruiting prospect.

At running back, senior Russell Booze rushed for 886 yards and 15 touchdown in 2013, and junior Jonathan Shumaker scored seven touchdown last fall.

While senior quarterback Danny Hong, a first-year starter, lacks experience, he’s drawn praise from Sanchez and teammates for the progress he’s made in the offseason.

“I am confident in him. I am confident in the entire offseason,” Sanchez said.

Defensively, Gorman is led by Notre Dame verbal commit Nicco Fertitta at safety, linebacker Otukolo and nose tackle Noah Tialavea. They are three of a contingent of seven from Gorman on the Sun’s preseason all-city team.

Gorman appears to be built to last.

It has four sophomores in the starting lineup and seven others projected to be part of the regular rotation. Three of the sophomores starting on defense include defensive back Alex Perry, safety Damuzhea Bolden , and defensive end Haskell Garrett. Perry already has a scholarship offer from Arizona State.

Offensively, sophomore Austin Arnold starts at wide receiver, and backup quarterback Tate Martell is verbally committed to Washington.

“We have a lot of guys who can make plays,” Jones said.

Most will be watching to see whether they can make enough plays to win a sixth straight state championship. If they go undefeated it would be a national championship. That’s certainly adds another level of intrigue to the season — and pressure on the players.

“There are a lot of expectations on us, but we are trying to go 1-0 right now,” 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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