Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Bishop Gorman is poised to win its sixth straight Nevada state championship Saturday in Reno against Reed. Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer wonder if anyone in Southern Nevada wants the Gaels to win, discuss the margin of victory and endorse Tony Sanchez as UNLV's next coach.
Nine seniors from the Bishop Gorman High football team have college scholarship offers, including one committed to play at Notre Dame.
The Gaels tight end is ranked as the nation’s best. And their quarterback, despite being just a sophomore, is committed to Washington. Other sophomores are already key contributors and projected to be major recruiting targets.
But to be a championship team, it takes contributions from all — not just those players with multiple recruiting stars next to their name.
Gorman plays Reed High of Sparks Saturday for their sixth straight state title, knowing a victory would also give them the mythical national championship. Gorman is ranked No. 1 nationally in every poll.
Nicco Fertitta, a safety heading to Notre Dame, tight end Alize Jones and strong-armed quarterback Tate Martell are known commodities. But, by no means, are they the lone reasons for the undefeated season, coaches say.
Take senior defender Bryce Garcia.
Garcia didn’t become a starter until this season, progressing through the program and doing whatever coaches asked with hopes of receiving playing time. Last season as a junior, that playing time came at the end of blowouts, when coaches shuffled reserves in and out of the lineup for a few snaps as a reward for their efforts in practice.
This season, though, Garcia has been a mainstay in the lineup. Gorman surrenders 11 points a game, including 26 points in eight games against local competition, and Garcia is a big reason for the success.
He’s started at multiple linebacker and safety positions, quickly becoming one of the defense’s best performers. He has 32 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions — impressive numbers for someone who mostly plays in the secondary.
The stats are of minor importance, though. Garcia is only concerned with two numbers — six straight state titles, and of course, No. 1 in the nation.
“It’s unreal. It’s a dream come true,” Garcia said. “I always thought winning a state championship would be cool. I never thought about being part of a national champion.”
Garcia appeared to be destined for another season as a backup during spring practice, rarely getting to participate with the first-team defense. But, even though he wasn’t receiving regular playing time, he continued to prepare like he was. He learned everything about the Gorman defense, letting coaches know he’d be ready when they needed a spark off the bench.
“I kept talking to coaches, asking them what I could do because I knew I could make plays,” he said.
When he finally got the opportunity, he backed up those claims to promptly become one of Gorman’s unsung heroes. And he performed in the most important game of the season.
Against St. John Bosco of California in late September, Garcia recorded an interception early in the game, helping Gorman take a 17-point halftime lead in a battle of the nation’s top-ranked teams. Gorman has been No. 1 ever since.
“He has done everything. Kind of our utility infielder,” said Gorman coach Tony Sanchez after reciting the positions Garcia has played. “For a guy to do that, the kids really rally around him. He is selfless. ‘Do you want me to play (defensive line). I will play D-line, coach.’”
Being 6-foot, 170 pounds, that might be the only position Garcia couldn’t play for Gorman. Come Saturday in the state championship game, though, Garcia and his teammates will do anything for one last victory. They know this win comes with a pretty special prize — a mythical national title.
“It doesn’t matter where I play,” Garcia said. “Whatever the defense needs I like to play. Wherever they need me.”