Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 | midnight
With only four playoff games on the docket, Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer spend significant time on each of them. They also allow for detours on rap, juicing and ringtones. ***NOTE: We apologize for the return of audio issues, this time on Brewer's microphone. Please turn up the volume in order to hear him.
In the same playoff game against the same team four years ago, Bishop Gorman lineman Zack Singer felt uneasy.
Flashbacks came naturally to Singer Friday night when Gorman hosted Arbor View in the state quarterfinals. It was the 2010 version of the matchup when Singer made his first career start for the Gaels as a freshman nose guard.
“When I was in that situation, I was a little fish in a big pond,” Singer reflected. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
Singer looked more like a shark in a backyard swimming pool during his senior performance against the Aggies. Hardly ever coming off of the field as the rare Gorman player who starts on both sides of the ball, Singer led a dominant effort in the trenches against Arbor View.
The Gaels muscled their way to a 52-7 victory on their quest for a fifth straight state championship, a streak during which Singer could claim to contributing more snaps than any other player to come through the program.
“He’s as good as anyone I’ve ever coached when it comes to the leadership department, when it comes to the toughness department,” Sanchez said. “This whole team rallies around him and looks to him for leadership. He was phenomenal tonight.”
Arbor View has built up its program to become one of the best in the valley by playing more physical than its opponents at the line of scrimmage. From the beginning on Friday, the Gaels established that wouldn’t work.
Singer and his defensive-line cronies who included Noah Tialavea and Michael Geraghty got a strong push that limited Arbor View to one first down on its first four possessions. Gorman scored on five of its first six drives.
On the Gaels' first possession, Sanchez called six consecutive rushes for Russell Booze behind Singer, the center, and in between tackles Tryson Mook and Nick Gates. Booze had a 44-yard scoring drive all to himself, powering into the end zone from the two.
“At practice I was like, ‘This is the front’s game. If the front executes, we win,’” Singer said. “The front executed. We did our job and put up the numbers we wanted to.”
But Daniel Stewart was the most dynamic ball carrier. The senior had 10 carries for 157 yards and four touchdowns, with the final one coming from 54 yards out.
“He went out there and busted his butt, ran hard between the tackles and followed the blocks like we needed him to,” Singer said of Stewart. “He really had a great game and stepped up. He had a huge role putting up the points we did in this game.”
Gorman’s only non-rushing touchdown came when Cunningham hit tight end Alize Jones for an eight-yard score on a fade route in the first quarter. It was Jones’ only catch.
Cunningham tried to find the blue-chip recruiting prospect once more in the third quarter, but it resulted in an interception for Arbor View’s CJ Smith. Gorman’s defense forced an ensuing three-and-out anyway.
On the rare occasions that the Aggies backs could escape the chaos created by the Gaels’ front four, linebackers Nela Otukolo and Chris Lalli were there to wrap them up. Arbor View mustered just one rush of more than single digits all night.
At least it was a memorable one. Jacob Speaks broke loose for 77 yards in the second quarter, setting himself up for a two-yard touchdown to make the score 28-7.
“Other than that, we were phenomenal all night,” Sanchez said. “We didn’t give up anything. For those guys to stick in against that team, and I know Legacy had a good game against them, but those guys are tough to hold down.”
Sanchez offered a similar scouting report on next week’s opponent, Palo Verde, which defeated Centennial 42-14 seven miles down the road Friday night. It’s another team Singer and everyone around the program knows well.
The Gaels have needed to get past the Panthers during all four of their runs to the state title.
“It’s a huge hurdle with Palo Verde,” Sanchez said. “When I first got the job, I asked who the rivalry was. They said Palo Verde. I said, ‘Well how can that be? They are not even on the schedule.’ They said, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll play them.’ They’ve always been a tough out.”