Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 | 12:30 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer preview all of the week's high school football action.
Bishop Gorman High football coach Tony Sanchez summarized his team’s blowout win against Centennial Friday for its fourth-straight Sunset Regional championship with the same message he preached all week.
As the players circled around him clutching the championship plaque, Sanchez bellowed: “How about that defense?”
All week Sanchez made defense the focal point in practice and the locker room, and on Friday, the players responded. Gorman (11-1) suffocated the Bulldogs’ offense; swarming the ball and forcing four turnovers that resulted in two touchdowns. While the offense racked points in the 59-7 victory, Sanchez said it was the defense that paved the way for the fourth regional championship.
“That was a championship-caliber defense,” Sanchez said. “…That was a phenomenal effort.”
Sanchez said the defense came out motivated to shut down Centennial (9-3) after seeing score predictions that had them giving up 26 points. Each day leading up to the game he challenged them to prove the predictions wrong.
“Our defense got called out all week,” Sanchez said. “That was big talk in the locker room talk with the kids, they were determined to come out and play a great defensive game.”
From the opening possession, that motivation showed. Centennial’s offense struggled to find any rhythm never making it beyond midfield. Gorman orange jerseys swarmed the ball on any runs, and flustered Bulldogs’ quarterback Austin Turley. They punted twice at the start of the game, which led to two-straight touchdowns for Gorman.
Then, near the end of the first quarter, the Gaels’ defense got into the scoring. The defensive line tipped Turley’s pass, and cornerback Justin Sweet caught the ball returning it for a 39-yard touchdown. On the next possession, defensive end Jake Smirk scooped up a fumble and returned it 64-yards for a touchdown knocking the wind out of the Bulldogs.
“That was fantastic,” Sanchez said. “Right away it gave us momentum, and then we got another score in the first half.”
While on offense, Gorman quarterback Anu Solomon picked apart the Centennial’s defense. The Gaels marched down the field scoring on every possession. Solomon finished the first half with two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns with 240 yards passing.
By halftime, Gorman led 49-0 leading to a running clock in the second half.
Centennial finally broke free on offense with 5:30 left in the game, when Turley found receiver Brandt Honda for a 43-yard touchdown pass. Still, it was too little, too late. With the majority of their starters out, the Gaels had already clinched the victory and a trip to Reno.
“Defense played a big role tonight,” Solomon said. “They played great obviously, (letting up) seven points, (forcing) turnovers. Our defense is really good; some people are overlooking them.”
Gorman will take on Reed High, which won the 4A Northern Regional Championship game against Damonte Ranch. Gorman defeated Reed for the state championship in 2011, and Sanchez is already looking forward to a chance at a fourth-straight state championship.
“They’re going to be a no huddle, spread (offense) team,” Sanchez said. “It’s going to be a good, fun game.