Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Ray Brewer and Case Keefer look ahead to Saturday's state championship football game between Bishop Gorman and Reed High.
The Bishop Gorman ball carrier was about to be tackled by two defenders.
That’s when Dorian Thompson-Robinson emerged in the play to deliver a block to give the rusher enough room to gain yardage for a pivotal first down.
The block changed the course of the game and, arguably, Gorman's season.
Gorman was trailing Cedar Hill of Texas in the first half of last season’s opener and in jeopardy of having its multiyear winning streak snapped. The hard block — the defender didn’t see Thompson-Robinson and landed flat on his back — energized Gorman players as they rallied for the victory.
Gorman finished the season undefeated and with a third straight mythical national title, validating its rise to national prominence with a win in Texas.
Saturday, Thompson-Robinson will be front and center as Gorman goes for another prominent win. The Gaels are playing at noon for their ninth straight state championship against Northern Region champion Reed at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
Thompson-Robinson's journey to quarterbacking the state’s most storied dynasty in its last game hasn’t been traditional. While he’s a high school All-American and UCLA commit, Thompson-Robinson didn’t start his first game under center until his senior season because of a logjam at the position.
Rather, he volunteered to play wide receiver to fill a void in the lineup, finishing with 22 receptions for 397 yards and eight touchdowns and, most important, earning the respect of teammates because of his unselfishness to play out of position.
“For me, it’s always been about my boys and doing anything to help the team win,” he said.
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When Gorman’s 55-game, four-year winning streak was snapped this season against Mater Dei, it was Thompson-Robinson who accepted the blame. It was his responsibility to keep the streak alive, and the Gaels were soundly beaten.
Despite constant pressure from the Mater Dei defense and enduring hit after hit, he gave Gorman a chance to win. The hits were so bad he could have easily asked out of the game, and few would have doubted an injury.
But he went down fighting.
“As soon as it was his turn, everyone knew he was the guy,” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “What he had to go through to get to where he’s at shows a lot of character and maturity. He’s just a really great kid who does a really great job.”
Thompson-Robinson was replacing a quarterback who had never lost in three seasons in helping firmly cement Gorman as a national brand. Many wanted to compare him to Tate Martell, meaning a blemished record could be a significant blow to his ego. But Thompson-Robinson doesn’t seem concerned with personal accolades.
Even when the Gaels win — they went 2-2 against national opponents, and Thompson-Robinson was great in both victories — he deflects the attention to teammates. Being that humble is rare, especially for a teen.
“The dude went off this year,” said senior tight end Brevin Jordan, who was first teammates with Thompson-Robinson in elementary school. “When it comes to football, he takes everything seriously. He just keeps fighting.”
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It was a tough group to follow: Anu Solomon. Randall Cunningham II. Martell.
The first quarterback started the dynasty and won four straight state championships. The next has an impressive pedigree and was a dual-sport standout. The last was the national player of the year.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Thompson-Robinson quickly lived up to their standards and emerged as the strongest leader in the group. Because he hadn’t thrown a meaningful pass entering this season, some wondered if he was worthy of being a four-star recruit and rated as the nation’s fourth-best quarterback by Rivals.com.
All he’s done is complete 159 of 231 passes for 3,015 yards with 36 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“I knew my time was going to come,” he said. “I got the experience I needed this season, from the losses and the way we came back and got wins. It gave me the experience to grow.”
He could have easily gone to another school where playing time was guaranteed earlier in his career. Instead, he settled for being the nation’s best backup and a utility wide receiver.
Come Saturday, in his final Gorman game, he’ll try to finish just like others before him — as a champion.
“I play for my boys. Anything to get my guys one last win and see their smile at the end of the game,” he said.