Jud Burkett / The Spectrum
Published Friday, Aug. 28, 2009 | 9 p.m.
Updated Friday, Aug. 28, 2009 | 11:54 p.m.
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ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Don’t let the final score fool you.
Bishop Gorman sophomore running back Shaquille Powell had three of his four touchdowns in the second half Friday night, and the Gaels closed the game with 34 unanswered points in a lopsided 48-14 victory against host Dixie High of St. George, Utah.
Yes, the Gaels showed they could be as good as advertised.
But the team loaded with Division I talent had plenty of first-game jitters early on, showing they are still a work in progress.
They committed three turnovers, had a handful of other mistakes and surrendered a touchdown with 23 seconds to play in the first half to go into halftime tied at 14.
While the second-half explosion highlighted several on Gorman’s star-studded roster, it didn’t help hide the early miscues.
“One of the things we are still working on is changing the culture here,” said Tony Sanchez, Gorman’s first-year coach. “We have to learn to not play the scoreboard and to play our opponent.”
Sanchez was hired last spring following a national search and vowed to bring discipline and passion to the program. He also brought a pro-style offense, which featured a balanced attack of running and passing to keep Dixie off balance all night.
Freshman quarterback Anu Solomon completed 8 of 15 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown, finding senior tight end Xavier Grimble for an 18-yard scoring strike to even the game at 7 in the first quarter.
Grimble, who is the nation’s top-ranked tight end by recruiting Web site Rivals.com and a Southern California commit, finished with five catches for 82 yards.
Last year, with Gorman focused on running the ball and the Gaels lacking a true quarterback, Grimble only had four touchdowns and barely 300 receiving yards.
“I’m happy but not satisfied,” Grimble said. “I almost have half of the amount of catches I had last year and we’ve only played one game.”
It was a game that looked like it could have gone either way at halftime.
Powell, who finished with 135 yards on 10 carries, broke the contest open with a 63-yard touchdown run with 1:09 to play in the third quarter to give Gorman a 28-14 advantage. Powell looked like he was stopped behind the line on the play but broke a few tackles, got some blocks and out-raced the defense for a touchdown.
“He has a motor that never stops,” Sanchez said. “He’s just a sophomore. He has a lot of good football left in him.”
Powell, who scored his four touchdowns on his first four carries, had scoring runs of 10, 1, 63 and 4 yards.
“It was great blocking from the guards and tackles,” Powell said. “I just followed those guys.”
Starter Victor Belen finished with 116 yards on 13 carries, including a 38-yard touchdown run with 5:36 to play to give Gorman a 34-14 lead.
It was the second of three Gorman touchdowns within two minutes midway through the fourth quarter as the game went from competitive to a blowout.
Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said his team ran out of energy. Most of Dixie’s players lined up on both sides of the ball and got tired, the coach said.
He also gave credit to Gorman.
“They have a real good team,” Monkres said. “You read the Internet and hear the rumors about them, and it’s true. That’s a good team. They played hard and clean.”
Gorman closed the game with a fumble recovery in the end zone by junior defensive lineman Matthew Lemieux for a touchdown. The play capped the second-half domination and put an exclamation point on the victory.
“You are always going to have to get the jitters out in the first half of the first game,” Grimble said. “Sanchez is a real upbeat guy. We are passionate about the game, and he allows us to have fun playing.”
The win had more significance than a good start to the season.
Gorman dedicated the game to longtime booster Frank Fertitta Jr., who died Aug. 21. They wore blue decals with Fertitta’s ‘FJF’ initials on their orange helmets.
Fertitta, the patriarch of Station Casinos, was the program’s biggest backer. The Gaels stadium is named Fertitta Field.