Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer go across the valley and break down the upcoming week of high school. They give their picks on every game and spend extra time debating Del Sol vs. Liberty and Servite (Calif.) vs. Bishop Gorman.
Don’t expect the smile to leave Kline Fielden’s face anytime soon. After all, you can’t blame the Bishop Gorman High junior kicker for being excited.
Not only was Fielden’s 39-yard field goal Friday with 1:03 to play against visiting Servite High of Anaheim, Calif., the game-winning kick in the Gaels’ dramatic 31-28 victory, it was also sweet redemption for a kicker who is more than familiar with the agony of defeat.
Five weeks ago, Fielden was low and wide left on a 40-yard attempt that would have tied the game in Gorman’s 20-17 loss to Armwood High of Florida. Both games were on an ESPN network, and the kicks were from almost identical distances.
This time, however, the result was different. Fielden couldn’t help celebrating as soon as the ball split the uprights, jumping up and down in jubilation and erasing the memories of his miss a few weeks earlier.
“I tried to stay calm and just remember what I had to do,” Fielden said. “This time, I stayed in my little corner over there and was secluded to myself. I went out there and did it. I knew it went through right when it went off my foot. (The emotion) takes your breath away."
Gorman led 28-20 at halftime but was held scoreless in the second half until Fielden’s heroics. On the decisive drive, the Gaels received the ball inside their 30-yard line with less than three minutes remaining. Anu Solomon’s 35-yard pass to Ryan Smith did the most damage in getting the Gaels into field goal position.
Fielden did the rest.
“We have confidence in all of our players. You have to allow your players to do what they are capable of doing,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “If he makes it, he makes it. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. But you love him and you keep working.”
The victory further validates Gorman’s rise from a local power to national power.
The two-time defending Nevada state champion Gaels, ranked No. 10 by ESPN and No. 11 by Maxpreps.com, improved to 2-1 this fall against respected national opponents. Each of the three teams — Chaparral High of Scottsdale, Ariz., Armwood and Servite — was ranked in the top 15 of at least one poll when Gorman played them. Servite is No. 13 by ESPN.
“A 2-1 record is fine. You know why it is fine?,” said Shaquille Powell, Gorman’s senior tailback who had two first-half touchdowns. “Because of the way we played. It would be different if we got blown out and played with no heart.”
It’s major victory for Nevada high school football, which, until Gorman’s arrival, nationally was categorized as weak with limited college prospects. That’s far from the case nowadays — something a national audience has twice seen this fall with Gorman on ESPN broadcasts.
“Before the year started, if you would have said you are 15-1 and you will beat two teams that at the time are ranked in the top 10 of the country, you take that,” Sanchez said. “Obviously, you’d like to be undefeated. The way it went down (against Servite) and they way we played in those last two games, I’m proud our kids.”
Gorman wasted little time jumping out to a lead against Servite.
Junior Justin Sweet returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and 7-0 advantage. After Gorman forced Servite to punt, the Gaels drove down the field, and Powell capped a six-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
“When you love the sport that much, you are going to score,” Powell said of Sweet. “The dude has a passion for kickoff returns. He wants to get in that end zone every time he gets the ball.”
Gorman students started chanting, “It’s too easy; it’s too easy,” as it appeared the Gaels were headed for another blowout. In the four games after the Armwood loss, Gorman has outscored four league opponents 244-13.
But, then again, Servite is a national power and not an opponent in the Gaels' weak Southwest Division.
Servite responded by scoring 20 unanswered points for a 20-14 lead, taking advantage of a Powell fumble inside the Gorman 20-yard line and an interception from Solomon to erase the deficit.
For the night, Gorman had four turnovers and played a sloppy second half. But in a sign of their growth, they didn’t break.
“The one thing about our team is you never see our kids quit. They have heart,” Sanchez said. “That is the No. 1 team in Southern California, that might be the No. 1 team in all of California right now. That is the heck of a win.”
Gorman closed the first half with a pair of touchdowns in the final 1:35 seconds. Solomon, who was 10-of-17 passing for 167 yards, connected for scoring strikes of 29 yards to Smith and 34 yards to Powell.
“We work hard and we are dedicated,” Sweet said. “We come out here every day for practice in the heat and we just work.”