Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010 | 6:48 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer sign off on football season by discussing this weekend's state championship game between Bishop Gorman and Reno's McQueen High. They also look back at the two semifinal games from last weekend — and get fired up Gorman-style with a pregame chant.
The play is called a 9-route.
And in the Gaels' two most significant games of the year the past two Saturdays, Smith and Solomon connecting on the 9-route have propelled the Gaels to victory.
The duo hooked up twice in the first half of Saturday’s large-school state championship game at Sam Boyd Stadium, with Smith easily separating from the defensive back for touchdowns in the Gaels’ 40-0 route of Reno’s McQueen High for a second consecutive state title.
Smith had touchdown grabs of 33 and 57 yards on the 9-route in helping the Gaels capture their third state crown in the last four years.
“I just used the speed God has blessed me with to run past everyone,” Smith said.
Yes, it is that simple.
Last week, in a 28-10 victory against Palo Verde in state semifinals, Solomon and Smith connected on a 59-yard reception seconds before halftime with Gorman trailing 3-0. The Gaels scored on the following play for a four-point halftime lead and never looked back in stealing the game’s momentum.
Solomon and Smith, both sophomores who started on last year’s title team, have logged long hours together perfecting the passing attack. They often stay after practice running extra plays, with Smith going long on the 9-route — one of their favorites.
“We saw something with their coverage and knew it would be open,” said Solomon, who passed for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He also found Jamir Tillman for an 11-yard score on Gorman’s initial drive of the second half for a 33-0 advantage.
Gorman (13-2) junior tailback Shaquille Powell rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He is widely considered the state’s top tailback and is so dangerous that opposing coaches usually put extra defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
That’s when the passing attack thrives. Solomon passed for 2,415 yards and 41 touchdowns this year, including 16 touchdowns to Smith.
“We took a couple of shots (long). We’re real fortunate they worked out,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said.
Gorman’s defense was equally impressive, recording its eighth shutout in 15 games. It only yielded 12 points in eight league games and 80 total points on the season.
The defense recorded a safety in the first quarter for the game’s first points, taking advantage of the McQueen punter mishandling a snap and being forced to dive on the ball in the end zone.
Gorman junior tailback Jelani Walls added an interception and blocked field goal.
“(The defense) stepped up every game and made everyone earn it,” Sanchez said.
Jordan Welte, who was playing in his third title game, scored on a 6-yard run in the first quarter for Gorman. Smith followed with his two touchdowns, and Colin Ditsworth kicked a 39-yard field goal to give Gorman a 26-0 halftime lead.
With so many younger players in key roles — Smith, Solomon and Tillman, for instance, are each sophomores — it’s not unrealistic to think Gorman’s dynasty will continue well past this year.
Sanchez expects more than 100 of the program’s players in the weight room when they start off-season training later this month.
“If we get after it (training) like we did this year and last year, we have a chance at two more,” Solomon said.