Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018 | 8:01 p.m.
Bryan Certain remembers watching these type of Bishop Gorman football games from the bleachers as a child. The energy in the stadium signaled an opponent of importance, everything from big crowds to even bigger plays.
Certain envisioned himself on the field for one of those championship Gaels’ teams, contributing to what has become Nevada’s all-time best prep dynasty.
Saturday, he made arguably the most significant play in Gorman’s latest championship-game victory. The linebacker stepped in front of a pass in the second quarter against Liberty in the Desert Region title game, returning the interception 47 yards for a score to build the Gaels’ lead to four touchdowns in a 42-28 victory.
Gorman advances to next Saturday’s state championship game to face Bishop Manogue of Reno.
Gorman was able to pull away thanks to two long touchdowns within a minute of each other midway through the second quarter — an Amod Cianell 74-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Micah Bowens, and three plays later on Certain’s interception return.
“It has been amazing. This has been a journey,” Certain said. “I just come out and do my best.”
Gorman took the lead for good on the game’s second play when Bowens went 84 yards on a quarterback keeper for a touchdown. He beat Liberty with both his arm and legs, rushing for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns, and passing for another two scores.
“He’s a true dual threat quarterback,” Certain said.
Liberty had consecutive touchdowns before halftime on a Kyle Beaudry 47-yard touchdown run and Maurice Hampton’s 15-yard touchdown reception from Lonenoa Faoa to trail just 28-13. It also received the ball first in the second half, meaning Gorman faced the rarity of a legitimate second-half threat against a Nevada opponent. Gorman hasn’t lost to a Nevada foe since 2008.
But Gorman’s defense made another big stop, forcing a Liberty fumble on the initial play of the second half. A few plays later, Bowens connected with Blaze Boudreau for a 30-yard scoring strike and three-touchdown advantage.
“That’s a good football team,” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said of Liberty. “You don’t win games in the first half. We knew they were going to come back.”
Gorman is one win away from its 10th consecutive state championship. Along the way, it has also won three mythical national championships to raise the bar for the local power.
Gorman, with many first-time starters, including Bowens, struggled earlier in the season by dropping three of its initial four games, all coming against a who’s who of national opponents. In one game, they lost by the mercy rule of a running clock.
But Sanchez made sure his players didn’t panic. Those national games are by design to prepare them for what is always been considered the program’s most important goal — winning the last game of the season.
“We knew the ultimate goal is to win the state championship,” Sanchez said. “It’s a process. We always talk about the process and continuing to get better no matter what every week.”
They’ll get that chance against Bishop Manogue, which overcame an early 14-0 deficit against Arbor View in advancing to its first large-school state championship game. Bubba Graham had more than 200 rushing yards for Arbor View, but Bishop Manogue’s Peyton Dixon had 300 yards on the ground.
“It’s a long season. We’ve just kept chipping away,” Sanchez said.