STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 | 2:08 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer gloat over local high school football teams' big out of state weekend before getting sophomoric and starting some trouble with discussions on Bishop Gorman, Centennial, Desert Pines and more.
As the rest of the Bishop Gorman football team took a knee at the end of Friday night’s game against Bingham (Utah), safety Nicco Fertitta stayed on his feet and exhaled a deep breath.
An assistant coach on the other side of the huddle yelled over to the senior captain with a question.
“Was that you?” he asked.
Fertitta nodded. Yeah, it was him.
It was Fertitta who saved the Gaels on a night when they nearly self-destructed. It was Fertitta who kept Bishop Gorman’s undefeated national-championship aspirations alive.
Fertitta rocketed off the blindside on a blitz in overtime and lowered his shoulder pads into Bingham quarterback Kyle Gearig’s back, causing a fumble that sophomore defensive end Haskell Garrett recovered.
Bishop Gorman 23, Bingham 20.
“When I hit him, all I heard was a bunch of oohs and aahs,” Fertitta said, “so I knew something good happened.”
That was a foreign feeling for Bishop Gorman most of the night. The Gaels experienced Murphy’s Law in action against the Miners.
While Gorman sometimes looked like the team USA Today ranks as the best in the nation while outgaining No. 18 Bingham by nearly 100 yards, it also made mistakes more befitting of a middling local squad.
The examples were almost endless. The Gaels got a 6-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore quarterback Tate Martell wiped away by a holding call, and then got sacked out of field goal range in the third quarter. No telling if they would have made it anyway, as they missed both an extra-point and 32-yard field goal in regulation. Gorman allowed Bingham to convert fake punts for first downs on three of four attempts on 4th-and-long plays.
Most appallingly, a botched exchange on a snap with 48 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter at midfield allowed Bingham one last chance when all Gorman needed to do was run the time out to win 20-17.
“That sure made it a lot more dramatic than it needed to be,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “It was already dramatic enough, then we do that and you’re sitting there like, ‘Wow, it’s slipping away.’”
One first-down set up a game-tying 45-yard field goal from Bingham’s Chayden Johnston, a Utah commit, that boomed through the uprights with three seconds to go. The game only turned more bizarre from there.
The Miners attempted an onside kick but interfered with the Gaels’ chance to catch the ball. Sanchez rushed onto the field, knowing the infraction entitled Gorman to a free kick worth three points if it went through the uprights.
After a slight pause while referees sorted out the situation, senior kicker Gage Wilson was able to attempt the kick from 55 yards away. The boot missed the crossbar by inches.
“I’ve known the rule since I was a young coach but it had never come up as an opportunity in a game,” Sanchez said. “I wish we would have made that.”
Instead, the Gaels got the ball first in overtime at the 10-yard line. The Miners stuffed two rushing attempts from senior Russell Booze, who finished with 16 carries for 110 yards, to start the series.
UCLA commit and the nation’s top tight end Alize Jones, who had three catches for 94 yards overall, dropped a tough pass in the corner of the end zone on third down. The Gaels settled for a 27-yard field goal from Wilson.
Just as those in the home stands braced for the worst with Bingham getting their shot at the end zone, Gorman defensive coordinator Ken Sanchez told Fertitta to go after the quarterback during a timeout before second down.
Fertitta, a Notre Dame commit, arguably made the two most significant plays of the evening. On Bingham’s first drive, it reached the six-yard line before Fertitta dove to intercept a pass.
“They pushed us down there, and I said, ‘No way; they’re not scoring on us this early. I’m not giving up these points,’” Fertitta said.
The play silenced the raucous Bingham crowd, and it looked like Gorman was on its way to a trademark rout when both Booze and Jones scored touchdowns within the next five minutes.
The Miners answered by marching their way down the field and taking a 14-13 halftime lead after a rushing touchdown from Cameron Smith, who had 20 carries for 103 yards, and a receiving score from Schyler Shoemaker.
They added to their advantage with a 42-yard field goal from Johnston. Martell was sensational other than the late fumble, however, with 187 passing yards, 68 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.
He took the Gaels on an 80-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cordell Broadus, who was the leading receiver with four catches for 73 yards, at the start of the fourth quarter. It probably should have been a game-winning touchdown.
Instead, Gorman got a game-winning sack.
“To me, there’s nothing surprising about what Nicco did,” Sanchez said. “He does that every game. Nicco is going to Notre Dame, and there’s a reason for it: He’s a heck of a football player.”