Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 | 1:15 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer get their wish — Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman meeting on the local high school football gridiron. The boys will take a look at the this game, and also discuss the Sunrise Regional finals between Liberty and Foothill.
As a freshman in 2008 during the Sunset Regional championship game against the Panthers, the public address announcer mistakenly called Powell another player on the Gorman roster after recording a 35-yard run.
That turned out to be the least of his problems, with Gorman losing by five touchdowns that evening in its worst defeat in the last five years.
Some three years later, Powell is continuing to make up for the loss. He rushed for more than 200 yards and a touchdown Friday in leading Gorman to its third straight victory against Palo Verde, a 35-7 win in the Sunset Regional title game at Gorman’s Fertitta Field.
The win puts two-time defending state champion Gaels (13-1) in next Saturday’s state semifinals against Sunrise champion Liberty. Going for a third straight title is something Powell admits he never envisioned.
“When I first came here, I never thought we would win three in a row,” Powell said. “It is a kind of like a dream come true to be nationally ranked and be the best team in your city and your state. And to have another shot to go prove you can do it again.”
Gorman built a 14-0 halftime lead behind a pair of 97-yard scoring drives — one in each of the first two quarters. After Palo Verde’s initial drive of the game stalled at the 3-yard line, Powell rushed for 47 yards on Gorman’s first play from scrimmage to set up a seven-play scoring drive. Quarterback Anu Solomoncapped the drive with a 1-yard keeper to give Gorman the lead for good.
Later in the half, Gorman again drove 97 yards, this time with Powell scoring on a 7-yard touchdown run in extending the lead to 14-0.
Powell, however, was far from a one-man show in the backfield. Sophomore Nathen Starks, his understudy, rushed for almost 100 yards on eight carries and two second-half touchdowns in helping Gorman put the game away.
Late in the fourth quarter, Starks broke free for a 45-yard run to bring the ball to the goal line, carrying two Palo Verde defenders the final five yards. He scored from 1 yard out on the next play.
“I wanted to try to get the ball in the end zone one more time,” Starks said of his late run. “Coach is always telling us to not give up on any play and that is what I was striving for there.”
Palo Verde’s touchdown came with 6:57 remaining on a 2-yard run from Lee Griggs. The Panthers recovered a fumble inside the Gorman 20-yard line later in the quarter, but couldn’t produce any points.
Early in the game, it didn’t appear Palo Verde would struggle scoring.
Palo Verde converted a pair of third-down plays into first downs on its first drive of the game, and junior tailback Ryan Beaulieu had a 46-yard run to bring the ball deep into Gorman territory. The Panthers, however, couldn’t get the early score.
“We caught them off guard,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “We are a double-wing team and we went spread and they weren’t ready for it. But they settled down. That is why they are a nationally ranked team.”
Palo Verde has lost two games in the last two years — both in the Sunset finals against Gorman.
“We have had great games. None of the games have really been lopsided,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “They have been hard-fought battles. It’s two well-coached teams, two talented football teams. That was another (good) game tonight. It was a lot closer than the score shows. We expected it to be like that.”
And, for the last three years, the name Shaquille Powell has constantly been announced. He’s rushed for more than 4,800 yards and 77 touchdowns, usually bringing his best performances in Gorman's toughest games.