STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014 | 6:45 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer wonder what happened to the Sunrise and (maybe) Sunset trophies while discussing the Division 1A state championship and Division 1 semifinals.
Even when the nation’s No. 1-ranked high school football team isn’t at its best, it dominates.
Bishop Gorman High, ranked No. 1 by USA Today and other publications, beat Liberty 50-0 today at Rancho in the state semifinals to advance to next week’s state championship game. The Gaels will face Northern Region champion Reed next Saturday in Reno for their sixth straight state championship.
“It was kind of an interesting atmosphere. Kind of quiet out here,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “I thought it was a little lethargic at the beginning. Slowly but surely, we pulled away. We didn’t play bad, but I don’t think it was our best performance of the year, either.”
Quarterback Tate Martell rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another, including a 27-yard scoring run at the end of the first quarter to give Gorman a two-touchdown lead.
Martell is one of the nation’s top dual threat quarterbacks for the class of 2017 and is verbally committed to the University of Washington. He’s passed for 2,100 yards and 33 touchdowns but had just one rushing touchdown entering today’s game. That quickly changed to validate claims of his dual-threat ability.
“Liberty was physical up front,” Martell said. “(Rushing) wasn’t by design. It was more something that happened during the game. Their ends were crashing in, so I saw that I could take off and run.”
Martell also scored on runs of 6 and 11 yards, and Jonathan Shumaker had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs.
“He is multidimensional,” Sanchez said of Martell. “Any time you have a dual-threat quarterback, the defense can’t just tee off on you. It is so important this day and age, even if you are a running football team, you have to be able to keep the defense honest.”
Liberty had plenty of chances early.
On Gorman’s initial scoring drive, the Gaels converted a fourth-down play in Liberty territory. A few plays later, Shumaker scored for the first points of the game. Then, on Gorman’s second possession, the Gaels needed 13 yards for a first down on a third-down play. Martell found Cordell Broadus for 15 yards.
Liberty had a touchdown called back in the second quarter when it could have cut the deficit to one touchdown. A few plays later, the Patriots threw an interception — one of five turnovers.
Liberty, which has won five straight Sunrise titles, was able to overcome those mistakes against non-Gorman opponents during the regular season. Playing Gorman, though, is a different animal.
“The kids were enthused. Our energy level is where it needed to be, the intensity level is where it needed to be,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “But, in typical Liberty fashion, every time we had a big play, we had a penalty.”
Gorman scored three touchdowns in the game’s final 10 minutes to put the game away, wearing out Liberty down the stretch. Backup running back Biaggio Walsh finished the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run.
“It was great being a five-time regional champion. It is definitely one of our priorities to win the east side,” Muraco said. “But we are trying to get to the next level. A game like this tells us where we are at. I felt like the game was closer than the score indicated at times.”
Gorman, for another season, is alone at the next level
It is one win away from a sixth straight state championship. This victory, though, would carry more significance. They’d likely finish as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team — rankings are compiled by the media, and national championships are mythical.
“We are trying to win this national championship more than anything else,” Martell said. “We are one win away.”