Stephen R. Sylvanie/Special to the Sun
Published Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 | 12:05 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 | 2:45 p.m.
It's the game everyone expected for the state championship — Bishop Gorman vs. Liberty. Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer play oddsmaker and try to set the appropriate line on the game. They settle on Gorman -25, with opinions split on which team covers at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday.
- Bishop Gorman’s football dynasty by the numbers
- This game against Bishop Gorman will be much different for Liberty
- A state championship win Saturday would put Bishop Gorman in exclusive company
- State championship picks
- Liberty makes quick work of Coronado for Sunrise title, has confidence it can compete next week against Gorman
- Gorman weathers valiant effort from Reed, advances to face Liberty in state title game
- State or bust: Liberty hopes the third time is a charm in state semifinals
- High school football section
Sam Boyd Stadium has transformed into a party site for those in orange, gray and blue.
The Bishop Gorman players, coaches and fans are celebrating a fourth consecutive Nevada state championship. This state championship victory will probably go down as the most memorable of all the victories the Gaels have earned since coach Tony Sanchez arrived on the Summerlin campus in 2009.
Gorman destroyed Liberty, the clear second-best team in the state, 63-10. Senior quarterback Anu Solomon had the perfect sendoff, as he threw for 199 yards and four touchdowns on 7-for-11 passing.
He connected with both of his favorite senior targets for scores, as Ryan Smith had two touchdowns and Jamir Tillman added one. Sophomore standout Alize Jones, someone to watch in the future to see whether Gorman can prolong its dynasty, also had two touchdown catches.
Junior Nate Starks carried the ball 13 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first quarter.
Liberty made a game out of it in the first half. Gorman led only 14-10 shortly before halftime. But they scored 49 unanswered points from there to make the last game of 2012 resemble the rest of their wins from the past four years — a lopsided blowout.
Check back later for full coverage on the state championship game from the Las Vegas Sun.
Gorman up 56-10, 10:00 remaining in fourth quarter
Start the running clock.
Gorman is beating Liberty by more than 45 points, the mark to start the running clock in Nevada. The Gaels have scored twice in the past five minutes to get to this point.
Justin Sweet had a 55-yard touchdown run and Solomon threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day with a 54-yard completion to Ryan Smith.
The Gorman defense has been just as outstanding, limiting Niko Kapeli, one of the best running backs in the history of the state, to -4 yards on 11 carries.
Gorman dominating, 5:00 remaining in third quarter
With all of Bishop Gorman's other stars already finding the end zone, it was only a matter of time before Jamir Tillman joined in on the fun.
Tillman just put the Gaels up 42-10 with a 12-yard touchdown reception on a third-down throw from Anu Solomon. Gorman is capitalizing on all of Liberty's mistakes.
The Gaels' latest score came after a Liberty fumble inside its own 20, its third turnover of the afternoon. Liberty's offense hasn't gained a first down for nearly an entire quarter.
Solomon now has three touchdown passes — one to Ryan Smith, one to Alize Jones and one to Jamir Tillman.
Gorman leads by 25, 7:00 remaining in third quarter
The team in gray and orange is running away with the 2012 Nevada state championship.
Liberty made the right call in trying for an onside kick to start the second half. It looked perfect, with a bounce at just the right time, but Gorman recovered and set out on yet another scoring drive.
The Gaels scored on a fake field goal pass from Ryan Smith to Alize Jones. Bishop Gorman 35, Liberty 10.
It was Jones' second touchdown catch of the day.
Nate Starks, once again, got Gorman in scoring position. But Liberty was able to stop him a couple of times inside the 10-yard line, and an Anu Solomon pass fell incomplete.
Solomon with a pass to remember, Gorman up 18 at halftime
Anu Solomon reached a milestone and gave Gorman a commanding halftime lead in the process.
Solomon threw his second touchdown pass of the second quarter, and it was one to remember. Solomon found a streaking, wide-open Alize Jones. The sophomore tight end hauled in the pass and took it 78 yards for a touchdown.
Gorman is up on Liberty 28-10.
The throw gave Solomon more than 10,000 passing yards for his high school career, a figure anyone will have a tough time catching.
Gorman scores again, 3:00 remaining in second quarter
Now Anu Solomon is looking the quarterback everyone is used to seeing.
After struggling through the first quarter, throwing one interception and narrowly escaping another, Solomon made up for it on Gorman's latest drive. He converted two third-downs on Liberty's side of the field and threw a touchdown pass.
Solomon found Ryan Smith for 35 yards in the corner of the end zone to put Gorman ahead 21-10. It was Smith's first catch of the day and came shortly after Gorman's other receiving star, Jamir Tillman, made his first catch.
Solomon is now 3-for-6 for 53 yards with a touchdown and interception on the day.
Liberty cuts deficit to 14-10, 6:41 remaining in second quarter
Don't write Liberty off yet. The Patriots are back in the game.
They capped off an impressive 90-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run from Kai Nacua to make the score 14-10 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The drive included several highlights. Facing a fourth-and-five from Gorman's 45-yard line, Liberty coach Rich Muraco called a fake punt.
Nacua began running to one side but threw the ball across the field to Jay Mitchell, who broke one tackle and proceeded to get inside the red zone with a 22-yard run.
The memorable play was only made possible after Nacua scrambled back 20 yards on third-down before finding Niko Kapeli, who let a huge block from Cesar Mariscal spring him for seven yards.
Gorman 14-3, end of the first quarter
Liberty handled a disastrous situation about as well as possible to end the first quarter.
After losing a fumble on the kickoff, a trio of Patriots — Jarvis Polu, Tyler Edwards and Samson Monteverde —sacked Anu Solomon for an 18 yard loss. Two plays later, after a hard Tyler Edwards tackle on Nate Starks, Preston Pavilca picked off Solomon to prevent the Gaels from adding any more points.
Now that it has the ball back, Liberty must find a way to improve its offense. The Patriots have seven rushes for -14 yards through the first quarter.
Gorman scores again, leads 14-3 with 2:24 remaining
Liberty just can't wrap up Bishop Gorman running back Nate Starks.
Starks scored his second touchdown on the first quarter, gliding through a gaping hole on the left side of the line for a 24-yard run. Starks now has 109 yards and two touchdowns on five carries.
The game is slipping away from Liberty. On the ensuing kickoff, the Patriots fumbled at the 19-yard line. Gorman recovers, and it looks poised to score again from the 10-yard line after the penalty.
Gorman gets in the end zone on its first drive, 6:30 remaining in first quarter
Liberty's early lead lasted less than four minutes.
Gorman drove right down the field with its first possession of the afternoon. A 20-yard touchdown run from Nate Starks has put Gorman on top 7-3.
The Gaels relied heavily on the run during the drive after Liberty defensive back Jay Mitchell dropped an interception on a deep pass from Anu Solomon on the first play. Starks ran the ball three times for 51 yards from there, and Tajon Allen also had several carries.
Liberty was called for three encroachment penalties, a sign of the nerves that accompany this game.
Liberty up 3-0, 10:00 remaining in first quarter
For the second straight year, Liberty has a lead over Bishop Gorman.
A 50-yard Patriots drive to open the game culminated with a 46-yard field goal from Austin Fitzgerald. The kick looked short, but snuck in by inches to send the Liberty fans seated in the west side of the stadium into a frenzy.
The Patriots drive stalled after one long pass and a third-down conversion. Kai Nacua caught a 20-yard pass from Tyler Newman on the first play of the game. A personal-foul call on Gorman gave the Patriots the ball in Gaels territory.
Nacua then threw for a 13-yard completion to Newman to get a first-down and put the ball in field goal range. Liberty just dropped an interception on the first play of Gorman's drive, which begins at the 30-yard line after an offsides penalty.
It’s the game everyone expected, the game everyone wanted.
The two best high school football teams in Nevada meet this afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium to determine the 2012 state champion. Bishop Gorman and Liberty left no room for debate in that regard with their performance throughout the playoffs.
Both teams won all of their postseason games by double digits, and combined to prevail in their semifinal contests by 64 points.
Neither the Patriots nor the Gaels lost to a Nevada opponent all year. The last time the Patriots felt defeat was in the 2011 semifinals, to these very Gaels.
After playing the then two-time defending state champions tough for most of the game, Liberty ultimately succumbed to a 56-34 demise. But that was the closest game any team had given Gorman since its unstoppable dynasty started in 2009.
It’s given the Patriots and their fans hope that they can accomplish the unthinkable to finish off this season in beating Gorman.
Time to find out. Kickoff is less than 10 minutes away, as fans filter into the stadium for the action.
Liberty has plenty of arguments as to why it’s going to be the team to finally beat Gorman, starting with a stacked senior class. Running back Niko Kapeli, who’s headed to UNLV, is the school’s all-time leading rusher — and he hasn’t even been the Patriots MVP this season.
That honor would fall to Kai Nacua, who starts at quarterback but also switches to wide receiver frequently during games. The BYU-bound star can do everything on the field.
It helps that more talent than ever surrounds him this season, including Jay Mitchell and junior Tyler Newman.
When it comes to offensive weapons, however, Gorman can say it’s in a class of its own. The state’s all-time leading passer, Arizona commit Anu Solomon, is going to cause all kinds of problems for the Liberty secondary.
Even if the Patriots defend the pass well, they’ll have to deal with the state’s most talented running back. Nate Starks, who will practically be able to pick any college he wants in two years, runs like a truck brushing off multiple defenders with broken tackles every game.
On the outside, Jamir Tillman and Ryan Smith are standout wide receivers. Both teams also have strong defenses that have improved throughout the season, but it would surprise no one if a shootout developed this afternoon.
Stay tuned to lasvegasssun.com for a live blog of the 2012 state championship from Sam Boyd Stadium.