Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | 3:18 p.m.
The Bishop Gorman football team could win more than a state championship this fall.
The five-time defending Nevada large-school champions today were ranked No. 1 in the preseason by USA Today, meaning if they go undefeated they’ll likely hold onto the ranking and be national champions. While multiple groups have rankings, the USA Today poll — which is in its 32nd year — is widely considered the most important.
“It puts a bigger target on your back,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said.
Gorman has finished ranked in each of the past five seasons, including in the top 5 in 2011 when it lost by three points to eventual national champion Armwood of Florida.
Going undefeated this season will be easier said than done, especially with opponents attempting to beat the nation's top team.
Gorman opens Aug. 22 in the Sollenberger Classic against Brophy Prep of Phoenix, and plays three opponents ranked by USA Today in the first six games of the season.
On Aug. 29, Gorman plays at No. 19 Servite of Anaheim, Calif., before hosting No. 23 Bingham of Utah on Sept. 5. And on Sept. 26, Gorman hosts No. 3 St. John Bosco of California. They also play on Sept. 19 against unranked Santa Margarita of California, which it needed two overtimes to defeat last season.
Gorman has played all its nonleague games against national opponents in recent years, taking on respected powers or nationally ranked foes to make a name for itself. Last season, the Gales lost to eventual national champ Booker T. Washington of Florida by two touchdowns.
While winning a national championship is firmly obtainable, Sanchez said it wouldn’t change how he managed the season. He tells the players the short-term goal is to be 1-0, which means a victory against Brophy Prep. The long-term goal of winning a state championship — a title won on the field, not by votes — will always be a top priority.
“Our philosophies won’t change at all,” Sanchez said. “There are still a lot of football games ahead of (us).”
The ranking is attributed to the returning cast of players with big-game experience. Senior Alize Jones, who is the nation’s top-ranked tight end and a UCLA commit, will combine with four-star recruiting prospect Cordell Broadus at wide receiver to lead the offense. Also, lineman Ethan Palelei has multiple scholarship offers.
Defensively, safety Nicco Fertitta is committed to Notre Dame, while five others – linebackers Nela Otukolo and Ryan Garrett, defensive back Jabari Butler, defensive lineman Jackson Perry and sophomore defensive back Alex Perry — have offers.
“You are proud with what a lot of kids and a lot of people, everyone involved at Gorman, has accomplished,” Sanchez said of the ranking.