Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 | 7:08 p.m.
Nearing the end of the first half the Bishop Gorman High football team found itself in an unfamiliar spot: locked in a tight game with an in-state opponent.
The Gaels led host Arbor View only 14-10 one minute before halftime of today’s state semifinals. But that’s when Bishop Gorman, which is chasing its eighth straight state championship, pulled away.
In a matter of 29 seconds, Biaggio Ali-Walsh plunged into the end zone for a 2-yard score, Greg Francis intercepted an Arbor View pass and Tate Martell threw a 23-yard touchdown to Brevin Jordan.
Bishop Gorman scored 35 unanswered points and sprinted away from Arbor View in the second half to win the Sunset Regional 56-17 and advance to the state championship game against Liberty next Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“It just takes time, but we know eventually it will happen,” said Martell, who passed for five touchdowns. “If we keep playing our game we will break it open like we did.”
The Gaels trailed 7-0 early after Arbor View's Hayden Bollinger connected with Andrew Wagner for a touchdown, and again 10-7, before an 80-yard connection from Martell to Jalen Nailor gave them the lead for good.
“We just knew that we wanted to take a shot,” Martell said. “We felt like it was a good time to get the momentum our way, so we took it.”
Nailor had a monster day, catching six passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns.
“It got us the momentum in the game,” Nailor said. “It really got us going, and we never looked back from there.”
Ali-Walsh was held to only 19 rushing yards in the first half but broke loose for 123 yards in the second, including a 90-yard rushing touchdown on the first play of the half.
Bishop Gorman’s defense, which struggled on the opening drives, settled in and held Arbor View to only 61 total yards in the second half. The Gaels out-gained the Aggies 526-195 overall.
Tensions were high throughout the game, especially when the first half ended. Officials stood as a barrier between the teams as they headed to locker rooms, with players and coaches exchanging taunts. Also, both sides were flagged for multiple personal-foul penalties throughout the game.
Another disputed moment came when the Gaels attempted an onside kick while they were ahead by 32 points with four minutes remaining — an unorthodox play for some because they led by more than four touchdowns. But because Gorman was kicking off from the 45-yard-line after an Arbor View penalty, the onside kick made sense, Gaels coach Kenny Sanchez said.
“When the ball is on the positive 45-yard line, if you kick an onside kick and don’t get it, they get it on the 35, so it’s football 101,” Sanchez said.
Gorman will take a 53-game winning streak into next week’s state championship game against Liberty, which beat Damonte Ranch, 30-27, in the other state semifinal.
“It’s going to be huge, to finish off my career at Gorman hopefully undefeated,” Martell said. “There were like eight of us that were starters since sophomore year, and we would have three national championships, so I don’t think it’s heard of.”
With a win over the 22nd nationally ranked Liberty Patriots, Bishop Gorman is expected to be voted No. 1 in the country for its third straight mythical national championship.
“They’re a good football team and we are both familiar with each other,” Sanchez said of Liberty. “We are going to be fired up. They’re going to be fired up. It’s going to come down to execution and game planning, and who will be the most focused.”