Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The Bishop Gorman High football team this fall is playing for a decade of dominance.
The Gaels haven’t lost to a Nevada opponent since 2008, going from a team that’s always in contention for the Nevada state championship to a perennial nationally ranked team.
If this season plays out like the others in recent memory, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t, Gorman will be the 10-time Nevada state champions. Max Preps ranks them No. 11 nationally in the preseason.
Gorman again has a who’s who of returning players, including Stanford-committed defensive back Kyu Kelly and UCLA pledge Beau Taylor on the offensive line. But the wide receivers are unproven, and there will be a first-time starter at quarterback, likely junior Micah Bowens. Bowens attempted just 25 passes last season.
Other notables from Gorman include Falcon Kaumatule, a 6-foot-8 tight end and defensive end; offensive lineman Cade Briggs (offers from Air Force, Tulane and others) and three-year running back Amod Cianelli.
While Gorman is the favorite, others are close behind. Here’s our annual preseason Top 10.
Last year: Won an eighth-straight Sunrise Region
Not only has Liberty firmly established itself as a Nevada power, it has also made a splash nationally and is ranked No. 45 by High School Football America to open the season. With the likes of senior lineman Troy Fautanu (he’s got scholarship offers from Notre Dame and USC), UNLV commits Kyle Beaudry at linebacker and Austin Fiaseu in the secondary, and defensive lineman Luke Toomalatai leading the way, there’s reason for optimism. Also, senior Cervontes White had 34 receptions for 653 yards and seven touchdowns last year to give the Patriots one of the best returning offensive players in Las Vegas. The Patriots will break in a first-time starter at quarterback but should again dominate the Southeast League. However, continuing their regional championship streak won’t be as easy because they are aligned with Gorman in the newly formed Desert Region. The Liberty schedule includes a showdown with IMG Academy, which is ranked No. 1 in the preseason and gives the Patriots a sample of what they could face against Gorman. Other players to watch from Liberty include offensive lineman Brandon Yates, who has Arizona State and Boise State scholarship offers, and sophomore Zyrus Fiaseu, who is one of the nation’s best 2021 prospects.
3. Arbor View
Last year: Won the Northwest League; lost in Sunset championship game
When your game plan is to have the best running game in the state and when returning one of the state’s top rushers, there’s plenty to get excited about. The Aggies, who have won five of the last six Northwest League crowns and consistently win double-digit games, are led by senior running back Bubba Graham. Graham rushed for 650 yards and five touchdowns in 2017 and led the Aggies with 274 receiving yards and another five touchdowns. He’s joined by Logan Bollinger, a three-year starter at quarterback, and offensive lineman Matt Smith. Defense will be an Arbor View strength, with linebackers JJ Tuinei (75 tackles in 2017) and Billy Davis (63 tackles), and defensive back Niles Scafati.
Last year: Advanced to the Sunset semifinals
Faith Lutheran’s defense is stacked with returning players, especially at linebacker with Hunter Kaupiko (103 tackles in 2017), sophomore Ma’a Gaoteote (56 tackles) and senior Nate Meredith (51 tackles). And on the defensive line, senior DJ Heckard is one of Las Vegas’ top college prospects. Offensively, the Crusaders have a three-year starter at quarterback in Sagan Gronauer, who passed for 2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2017. Its wide receivers and running backs will mostly be first-time starters, but players such as senior receiver Keagan Touchstone and junior Peyton Thornton have been solid in camp.
5. Desert Pines
Last year: Won a second-straight 3A state championship
After years of dominating the class 3A, the Desert Pines players are confident they will again make a deep playoff run in their first-season back in the class 4A. They certainly have the talent to win games. Junior tight end Darnell Washington at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds is considered one of the best recruits nationally for 2020, and has the scholarship offers — from Alabama, Michigan and others — to support the claim. Senior running back Cameron Wiley is verbally committed to Minnesota and has the breakaway speed other teams won’t be able to match, and senior wide receivers Ty Moore and Devin McGee add to the offensive arsenal. Defensively, juniors Jordan Butler and Gabriel Lopez, each of whom have major Division I offers, will make it tough for the other teams to rush the ball.
Last year: Lost in the Sunrise quarterfinals
While closing 2017 on a four-game losing streak wasn’t ideal for a Basic program accustomed to making a postseason run, it did provide a core group of younger players plenty of reps. And many of those players are returning, including senior running back Dorian McCallister, who rushed for 526 yards and four touchdowns last season. Junior Paul Myro returns at quarterback and should be improved from his 11-interception performance last season. Trace Evans, who had 68 tackles last season, returns to anchor the defense. Julio Duron, at 6 feet, 240 pounds, is a leader on the line, which is considered one of Basic’s strengths.
Last year: Lost in the Sunset semifinals
Legacy, which won seven games last season, is traditionally tough to slow down in the run game. This year will be no exception, especially with the one-two punch at running back with junior Jerry Martin and sophomore Aaron Holloway. In Holloway’s lone carry as a freshman, he raced 72 yards for a touchdown. Martin gained for 220 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Cornerback Amorey Foster, who had 79 tackles last season, and linebacker Gregory Field will be defensive leaders. Legacy moves from the Northwest League — affectionately called the Black and Blue Division for the physical style of play — to the Northeast League. Many feel it’s the Longhorns — and not No. 5 Desert Pines — that is the team to beat.
Last year: Lost in the Sunrise semifinals
Foothill won eight games last season, returns a quarterback who passed for 18 touchdowns and completed 60 percent of his passes, and has experience at each of the offensive skilled positions. More important, those players have confidence they can compete against perennial Southeast power Liberty, which it led at halftime last season. Braeden Wilson (591 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2017), Jordan Blakely (339 yards and four touchdowns) and Jordan Wilson (209 yards and one touchdown) give junior quarterback Koy Riggin plenty of options in the passing game. Julian Bradley on the line is also experienced. Blakely, an Air Force verbal commit, doubles at defensive back and had 54 tackles and three interceptions last season. Linebacker Mateo Monterde (67 tackles) also returns. If Foothill can stay healthy, especially on defense, it will be a tough out come the playoffs.
9. Green Valley
Last year: Lost in the Sunrise championship game
The Gators have one of the top returners in Southern Nevada with wide receiver Kalyja Waialae, who last season had 31 catches for 582 yards and seven touchdowns. They also return running back Julian Hulse, who had 804 rushing yards and six touchdowns. When you consider the offensive line has experience, led by seniors William Bonkavich and Hunter Mecham, the Gators should be high-scoring. Defensively, Green Valley returns linebackers Reyden Morett ( 81 tackles in 2017), Mitch Jacobs (43 tackles) and Brant Hershberger (41 tackles).
10. Sierra Vista
Last year: Lost in the Sunset quarterfinals
Sierra Vista has many returners at key positions, including at running back where Bryan LaGrange rushed for 87 yards per game last season. The Mountain Lions are also confident in their passing game, which will be led by senior quarterback Polo Solomon and wide receiver Tristen Jimenez. Defensively, linebacker Jahsiaah Maiava had 48 tackles and nine sacks in 2017, and will be joined by defensive lineman Austin Schmitz.