Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010 | 11:58 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss the upcoming high school football season. They will let you know whether or not anyone can dethrone defending state champion Bishop Gorman, release their state title sleepers teams and give a quick breakdown of the area's 30-plus schools.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Bishop Gorman High’s Shaquille Powell sat in the back of the visitor’s locker room at Northern Arizona University’s J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome in silence.
Powell didn’t need to speak. The look of dejection on his face told the entire story.
Powell rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough as the No. 11 Gorman football team dropped its season opener 24-17 to No. 16 Hamilton High of Chandler, Ariz., in the Sollenberger Classic.
Gorman, which led the nation in scoring with 799 points last year, didn’t score its first touchdown until there was less than four minutes to play.
That’s when Powell scored on a 7-yard run to cap a scoring drive that saw Gorman, which trailed 17-9, twice gain a first down on fourth-down conversions. Quarterback Anu Solomon ran in the 2-point conversion to even the game at 17.
For a team that scored with relative ease all last season, struggling to find the end zone came as a surprise — especially for Powell.
“It was definitely a shock with how many mistakes we made,” he said. “They definitely made us one dimensional. You can’t win if your defense is always out there.”
Hamilton wasted little time in taking the lead for good following the Powell scoring run.
Quarterback Kyren Poe connected with Tanner Clay on a 56-yard reception to bring the ball deep into Gorman territory.
Poe scored the game winner with roughly 1:30 to play on a 1-yard quarterback keeper. The game clock was broken for most of the fourth quarter, and time was kept on the field.
Gorman went four-and-out on its next possession and Hamilton kneeled out the clock. It was the Gaels’ first loss since 2008 — they went 15-0 and won the state title last year.
“Am I disappointed? Absolutely,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “But at the end of the day, you have to cowboy-up and get back at it.”
One of the things they’ll surely work on is offensive efficiency.
Gorman, which only starts two seniors on offense, struggled most of the night moving the ball and was limited to three Colin Ditsworth field goals — 23, 44 and 43 yards — to take a 9-7 lead at halftime.
The Gaels, however, made improvements as the game progressed.
They were flagged for three false starts and one delay of game on their initial series of the game, struggling to adjust to a vocal Hamilton cheering section that caused communication errors. They went three-and-out and were forced to punt.
“(The noise) hurt with audibles and snap count,” Powell said. “That is a big part of football.”
But they regrouped on the sideline after the series and didn’t commit any false start penalties the remainder of the game. It’s those type of improvements Sanchez is looking for.
The Gaels schedule includes games against three quality out-of-state opponents, giving them plenty of opportunities to improve and work out the rough spots before they begin their title defense.
Another area they need to work on is defending the long pass. Twice, the Gorman secondary got burned for long plays, and both times Hamilton was able to score a touchdown — including the game-winner.
“At the end of the day, we expect to do more than learning and growing,” Sanchez said. “We expect to win the game.”
Solomon couldn’t find his rhythm and finished 6-of-17 for 58 yards and an interception. But he showed his grit by out-racing a pair of Hamilton defenders to end zone on the 2-point conversion.
“I was proud of our guys for holding (Gorman) to one touchdown,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said. “I know that hasn’t happened to those guys in some time. We beat a very good Bishop Gorman team. I’m sure they are going to be tough to beat for those Nevada teams.”
Powell obviously wasn’t the lone player dejected in the locker room. But Sanchez and the other coaches remained positive. After all, it is only the third week in August and there is plenty of football left to play.
“It’s only Aug. 21,” Sanchez said. “We only had two weeks to get ready.”
Gorman returns to action Aug. 28 against Del Oro High of Northern California in its home opener.