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October 18, 2018

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Bishop Gorman gets into a groove to grab first win of the season

Gaels overcome big night from Orem High’s Puka Nacua

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Christopher DeVargas

Members of the Bishop Gorman football team pose at the Las Vegas Sun’s high school football media day Tuesday, July 31, 2018, at Red Rock Resort. They include, from left, Falcon Kaumatule, Cade Briggs, Amod Cianelli, Beau Taylor and Kyu Kelly.

In a six-minute span of game time Friday night at Fertitta Field, Bishop Gorman pulled off three highlight plays that could sit right next to any that the program has amassed during its last decade of national prominence.

First, senior defensive back Kyu Kelly busted through Orem (Utah) High’s line for a textbook punt block that resulted in a safety. On the Gaels’ ensuing drive, Gaels junior quarterback Micah Bowens placed a pass perfectly between two defenders to junior receiver Donovan Smith in the end zone despite being chased out of the pocket.

Bowens’ precision showed again in his next passing attempt when he hit Kelly in stride down the sideline, and the receiver pulled down the pass with one hand.

Gorman didn’t look like a team that had limped up to an 0-2 start in its first victory of the season, a 31-21 win over Orem.

“We just hadn’t found a rhythm,” Bishop Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “We found a little tonight. I’m just proud of them for battling back.”

Bowens said the Gaels’ confidence was high after the best and hardest week of practice he had ever endured. It showed in a game where Gorman never trailed, and moved the ball much easier than it had in scoring seven points combined points in losses to Mater Dei (Calif.) and Centennial (Ariz.).

Bowens completed 17 of 27 passing attempts for 215 yards, with one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown.

“I just knew I had to make plays,” he said.

Gorman’s defense had shown flashes in its first two games but may have played its best against Orem. The Gaels held the Tigers to 15 rushing yards when including losses from sacks — of which there were many.

Junior defensive lineman Conor Fryar led the way with two sacks, with pressure setting up the Gaels’ first score. Gorman’s defensive front rushed Orem quarterback Cooper Legas into a bad decision, which turned into an interception by senior cornerback Malik Hayes.

Taking over on a short field, Gorman scored quickly with Bowens lasering a pass to senior receiver Blaze Boudreau at the goal line. Junior running back Ikaika Ragsdale, who had 21 carries for 55 yards on the night, punched in the touchdown.

Gorman’s next four points came on a pair of safeties after pinning Orem inside its own five-yard line. The Gaels only had trouble with one player all night — senior receiver Puka Nacua.

The younger brother of former Liberty star Kai Nacua and Bishop Gorman linebacker Isaiah Nacua, the USC-committed Nacua scored three touchdowns and racked up 262 receiving yards.

“Nacua, whoa, what a really good football player that kid is,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes, it was just toss and catch and he was just better than a lot of people.”

Gorman is usually the team with personnel “just better” than its opponents, but there were local rumblings of that not being the case anymore after the losing streak to start the year. The win over the Tigers might be cause for another re-evaluation.

Gorman displayed a ton of playmaking talent. Although senior running back Amod Cianelli had a few long runs waved off for penalties, he still had 73 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Smith, who’s listed as a quarterback and remains Bowens’ backup, played like a natural pass-catcher with 80 receiving yards on six catches. In addition to the early interception, Kelly and sophomore Charlotin Charles also had takeaways.

For the first time this season, Bishop Gorman cruised in a fashion not unlike the one it’s implemented to win nine straight state championships.

“Especially with what we’ve been through the last few weeks,” Bowens said, “to do what we did today, it feels great.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.