Friday, Sept. 9, 2016 | 11:30 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports editors Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss Liberty's momentous win over the top-ranked team in Texas, and give an ode to all the other great games high school football has produced so far.
The players took a knee surrounding Bishop Gorman High coach Kenny Sanchez in a semicircle. He quieted the group for a postgame message, and before uttering any words Sanchez pumped his fist and yelled while stepping forward into a group that rose to surround him.
The top-ranked Gaels weren’t quite done celebrating, and after scoring 28 unanswered points to win at St. John Bosco it was hard to blame them.
“It feels awesome,” Sanchez said. “When you can be a road warrior, sometimes it makes it feel even better.”
Gorman endured a key injury, a plethora of penalties and a formidable foe, but by the end the Gaels left no doubt. Senior quarterback Tate Martell threw for 182 yards and three scores while rushing for 112 yards and another touchdown to lead Gorman to a 35-20 victory and a 3-0 start.
Considering how the game turned out, it was easy to forget that Gorman was lucky to trail by only six entering halftime. The Gaels put themselves in that situation with a lot of unforced errors.
“Penalties were killing us, that was really the only thing,” Martell said.
Gorman started the game with a false start on the very first play, and penalties would hurt the Gaels throughout the first half. By halftime they had been called for 10 penalties totaling 89 yards, including a holding on fourth-and-11 that negated a 33-yard gain to the 1-yard line.
Backing up into 4th-and-21 didn’t deter Sanchez from calling for a fake punt, which went nowhere. A few plays later, Bosco notched a 38-yard rushing touchdown to take a 14-0 lead.
On top of the deficit, Gorman had to deal with the loss of starting running back Biaggio Ali Walsh, who suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter. His night ended with 23 yards on six carries, which meant a significant workload for sophomore Amod Cianelli, who proved to be up to the task.
“I’m proud of our guys for the next-man-in mentality,” Sanchez said.
It took awhile, but Cianelli kept chipping away at the Braves’ defense and finished with 113 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Depending on Walsh’s injury, Cianelli could see an increased role in the coming weeks. If that’s the case, the Gaels will have plenty of confidence in him.
“Look what he’s doing — he’s a great running back and he’s only a sophomore,” Martell said.
The Gaels scored in a variety of ways, whether it was the clock-bleeding 15-play go-ahead drive in the third quarter or Martell’s gorgeous 44-yard bomb to Dorian Thompson-Robinson on the first play of the fourth quarter. And the defense only got better as the game went on, with safety Bubba Bolden providing a couple of the key plays with a shoestring tackle to prevent a first-half touchdown and the interception that effectively ended the game.
It was an impressive display of perseverance from the No. 1 team in the country. Now that the celebrating’s over, though, it’s back to the grind.
“It’s just another one for us,” Martell said. “We knew that we had to come out here and win this game. Obviously it’s a great win for us but we have to go back to work on Monday.”