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September 18, 2014

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high school football:

Gorman’s dynasty, which now includes four straight titles, far from finished

Gorman’s underclassmen have a hand in five TDs in helping Gaels beat Liberty 63-10 for state title, set table for future championship runs

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/Special to the Sun

The Bishop Gorman Gaels football team poses for photographs after defeating Liberty for their fourth Division I State Championship title in a row at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Gorman Wins Fourth Title in a Row

Gorman halfback Nathan Starks, left, fights off Patriot defender Jaylen Mitchell as he carries the ball upfield for a big first half gain on Saturday afternoon. Launch slideshow »
Prep Sports Now

What's the line on Gorman vs. Liberty?

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It's the game everyone expected for the state championship — Bishop Gorman vs. Liberty. Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer play oddsmaker and try to set the appropriate line on the game. They settle on Gorman -25, with opinions split on which team covers at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday.

This wasn’t the first time Bishop Gorman High quarterback Anu Solomon completed a long touchdown pass in a big game.

Seconds before halftime Saturday in the Division-I high school football state championship game against Liberty at Sam Boyd Stadium, Solomon connected on a short pass to tight end Alize Jones. Jones did the rest in outracing the Liberty defense for a 78-yard touchdown and 18-point Gorman lead at the break.

The completion gave Solomon more than 10,000 passing yards for his four-year career. He would finish with 199 yards and four touchdowns, leading Gorman to its fourth straight state championship with a convincing 63-10 victory.

Ryan Smith, another four-year starter for Gorman, hauled in three passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, and he added a touchdown pass to Jones on a fake field goal on the Gaels’ first drive of the second half to essentially put the game out of reach

Make no doubt about it, the Gorman dynasty of the past four years with Solomon and Smith leading the charge is arguably the best in state history. After all, Gorman became the first school since Reno High in the 1950s to win four consecutive championships.

But by no means is Gorman’s dominance going to end without Solomon, Smith and other mainstays during the championship seasons graduating. The Gorman cupboard, as witnessed in the victory, will be far from bare.

Randall Cunningham Jr., Solomon’s backup, rushed for a 19-yard touchdown run with 4:53 to play to close the scoring as Gorman finished with 49 unanswered points. Jones, an athletic 6-foot-3, 205-pound tight end, is a sophomore and a likely blue-chip Division I college recruit.

And, of course, there is Nate Starks.

The junior rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns on five carries in the first quarter alone, finishing with 160 yards to cap his breakout campaign. He already has scholarship offers from the likes of Oklahoma and Texas, and he should combine next year with Cunningham, Jones and the others to make Gorman again the favorite to win the state championship.

“It’s a moment in history right now with the four-peat,” said Starks, who had scoring runs of 33 and 25 yards in the first quarter to give Gorman the lead for good. “I’m just so grateful to be part of the team and have the coaches I do. We come out and grind and don’t take anything for granted. (Next year), we just have to keep working hard on the field and in the weight room, and the best will come again in the end.”

While Gorman will have more than its share of talented players with experience ready to step into the starting lineup, it won’t be easy replacing the likes of Solomon, even when he isn’t at his best.

Against Liberty, the Arizona-committed quarterback misfired on his initial three passes, including one for an interception, and didn’t have a pass completion until 3:33 before halftime. However, he wouldn’t be denied, completing four passes for 131 yards to close the half, including a 35-yard touchdown to Smith and the long hookup with Jones.

“Our kids, they have just done a fantastic job,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “You look over the years, and any time we have played a big game, our kids have really stepped up. They have never not competed in a big game. We have lost four games (in the past four years) and all are against (out-of-state) teams that have won state championships.”

Gorman closed like you would expect a four-time state champion to in the second half, scoring on all five of its possessions and holding Liberty scoreless.

The Gaels opened the half by draining six minutes off the clock with a long scoring drive, which was capped by Smith’s touchdown pass to Jones on the fake field goal. Liberty fumbled on the initial play of the ensuing possession and Solomon made the Patriots pay by connecting with Jamir Tillman for a 9-yard touchdown and a 42-10 lead.

The touchdowns were less than 90 seconds apart. The Patriots, the three-time Sunrise Region champs who last year twice had first-half leads against Gorman in losing by only 20 points, couldn’t mount a comeback.

Niko Kapeli, Liberty’s all-time leading rusher who had more than 200 total yards against Gorman last year, had just one yard on 13 carries. Kai Nacua, Liberty’s versatile quarterback who doubles at wide receiver, was limited to two receptions for 26 yards and negative rushing yards with sacks. He passed for about 70 yards and had a 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but for the first time this year, he couldn’t take over the game.

“I thought early on we played well,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “We came out, and we were fired up and ready to play. There are so many momentum swings in a game. I tried to tell the kids before the game that it is not always going to go their way, and there will be highs and lows, but you have to keep believing and keep the intensity when things go poorly.

“But it kind of got out of hand there in the second half. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t play as well as we would have liked today.”

Liberty still had momentum early in the third quarter when it stopped Gorman inside the the 10-yard line to force a short field goal attempt. With the Patriots trailing by 18 points, a Gorman field goal would have kept it a three-score game.

Then, Smith had one of his finest moments as a Gael. A holder on field goals, he took the snap and threw a perfect pass to Jones for a back-breaking touchdown.

“If we came out and played well, I knew we could win another one,” said Smith, who finished his career with a large-school division record 3,208 receiving yards. “They key was settling down and playing our game, and that is what we did.”

Senior Justin Sweet added a 55-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter, and senior Dalton Baker had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Next year, it will be someone else’s turn to add to the Gorman legacy. Judging by Saturday, it’s a dynasty that is far from finished.

“All of our kids bought into the success we were going to have a group,” Sanchez said. “They know individual accomplishment will come through team effort. The great thing about it is, you look at our sideline and the whole team from last year is here. The team from two years ago is here. They have the expectation to continue the tradition.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Congratulations Gorman on winning another title. I think not winning by more than 45 points would be considered a defeat. But as usual you showed your dominance. Congratulations also to Liberty for representing the public schools. Hold your heads up for it's almost impossible to beat a stacked deck. See everyone next season. Here's to hoping for change NIAA.

  2. LMFAO @ the haters.....it fuels the fire! Congratulations Gaels! You played hard and showed the State of Nevada who rightfully deserve be crowned as the best football team. Maybe next year there won't be a snub by AZ! Go Gaels!

  3. I have no hate for Gorman. I commend you for manipulating the rules to guarantee a sure all-star team year after year. Unfortunately no PUBLIC school is afforded the same opportunity.

  4. Aloha,

    I glanced at the comments and the ones of negativity because of Gormans dominance is ABSOLUTELY true.

    If you didn't know by now, it's not ILLEGAL to have more talent (dept on both sides of the ball), better coaches, facilities, faculty, administration, alumni, parents, & MONEY etc.......

    Bottom line, Gorman is absolutely blessed to have the above statements. Taking nothing for granted, they work harder & smarter than anyone else utilizing all their assets (talents).

    Lastly, give credit to EVERYONE involved of Gorman succeeding & becoming Nevada State champs four (4) years in a row, UNBELIEVABLE.

    P.S.
    Liberty coaches we're not ready to say the least. If they took the time to study & scout, score would have been much closer.

  5. Unfortunately Gorman sets a bad example for kids and parents. They build a palace to play in and train in. It's bloody high school football and to glorify it so is unseemly.

    With all the problems our schools have to put football on such a high pedestal is perverse. I'm not advocating that it be done away with but it should be secondary if not tertiary to the business of a school which is education.

  6. Newsflash....football is big business in college and pros (not just the NFL). High School football in Texas, California, and Florida is huge. Gorman's football program and facilities put it on par with those states and brings NATIONAL recognition to the State of Nevada....what has YOUR school done to raise national awareness or improve itself on the national stage?! Hate on haters! LMFAO

  7. How many students from Gorman have served in the military in the last 11 years? Bet the public schools have a much higher percentage.

  8. Congrats to Liberty. You are the state champions in my mind and most other non-elite types. When every starter on Gorman received a scholarship and not one starter paid his own way, which tells me all I need to know.

  9. @ BCdave
    It's funny how you worked academics into the topic. You better bet Gorman should have a higher graduation rate, the school has total control as to who attends. I suspect trouble makers and those lagging are pushed back to the public schools. Yes, the public schools are not selective on who can attend, they must accept all in their zone. So if Gorman's graduation rate (in a controlled environment) is less than 100%, would that not be considered a failure too?

    Also, it's not wise to be condescending to those less fortunate than you. You may find yourself eating a big helping of sh*t pie. To quote one of your Gorman alumus, LMFAO!

  10. LAST COMMENT OF GORMAN FOOTBALL!!!

    Aloha Bill_Gordon,

    FYI, NO players get FREE TUITION!!! Just so their's no confusion, it's called FINANCIAL AID / ASSISTANCE. Most of the players PARENTS on the particulars mentioned above have to work two (2) - three (3) jobs of keeping them at Gorman.

    Bottom line, first & foremost, Gormans EDUCATION is second to none. Meaning, not only do they excel in SPORTS, but first in the CLASSROOM.

    Lastly, give CREDIT to everyone involved of Gormans NATIONAL RECOGNITION (Ranked Nationally in all Sports).

    P.S.
    Now comes basketball, baseball, & whatever's next. Stay tune Gorman HATERS, theirs much more to come.

    God Bless & Love

  11. Some of you Gorman Parents should be ashamed for your comments. Lets tell the truth. Gorman kids are not smarter, if your grades are not up to a certain level , you get kicked out of Gorman, If every school did the same thing , the graduation rates would be in the 90% for every school. Its easy to teach an A student to be a A student. How many kids have they taken from D student to A student. Not to many, they get kicked out.

    One thing I guess they don't teach over there is humility. To put everyone down and have a superiority complex goes against the Catholic Church teachings, does it not. This is a Catholic School,right? Or money school, or sports school?
    Lets not tarnish what Gorman stands for and stop being stupid.

    A true educated person is well rounded, polite and respectful to all people.Not just book smart.

    I feel sorry for the Gorman parents who read this and realize that they may know the idiots who made some of these remarks. Most Gorman parents are not idiots.

    Congrats to the Gorman parents and kids. Congrats to the Liberty parents and kids.

    This was a great year of football. Things will change for the better because of it.

  12. Is Gorman that good or is the rest of the state that bad?

  13. WHAT?! If you recruit all the best players in the valley you'll win the state championship? You don't say...

  14. Ha, I remember the days on Maryland Parkway. Everyone forgets that we didn't always have the great facilities and campus we have today. The public schools had better facilities than we did.

    Now that we've improved ourselves and have a better facility, the haters and jealous people come out of the woodwork to try and put us down and take away what we've earned. That's why I laugh at people like that. When others work hard and strive to improve themselves, they blame others (the system) and cry. It only makes us stronger. It's also a great example for my kids....they learn that there will always be people trying to bring them down to a lower level...they're taught to persevere and keep moving forward....not only on the football field, but in life.

    People may call it elitism, I call it improving your position in life. My parents worked hard and sacrificed to send me to Gorman. My wife and I both sacrifice some of the good things in life and drive older cars so we can send our children to private schools....and it will pay off in the end.

    Thanks for the laugh haters!

  15. I don't think anyone will argue that Gorman has made big steps since the old Maryland days. It's apparent they are very successful. And since they are successful it will draw talent, involuntarily and those that are sought after. This talent pool includes the entire valley. This is perfectly legal; however, the ability of Gorman to attract top talent has left the zoned public schools to essentially settle for whatever talent resides in their zone. Hence, the drastic disparity between public schools and Gorman. The playing field has become so lopsided, public schools will never be able to complete. I admire Gorman for being able to get the top talent and improve their national image, but it has been at the expense of the public schools.

  16. @Eddie James - that's the way it works in life isn't it? If you don't work to improve yourself, you'll get left behind. Nothing stays the same and if you don't adjust and move forward, you don't make it. It goes beyond High School football and sports. It works the same way in the corporate world and in the geo-political world as well.

  17. In everyday life I could not agree with you more Anthony, but it doesn't provide a solution to the obvious disparity bewteen private and public schools. To level the playing field somewhat, I think school zones should be abolished. Granted, kids will migrate to the more successful programs, but it's better to have several schools capable of competing with Gorman than zero.

  18. Hey Fan, you can keep trying to spread your lies in here about Liberty but they are as insignificant as your posts. Well you're not a trusted commenter anyways so your garbage will disappear from here in the very near future. You go ahead and keep looking down your nose at our Patriot program and we'll keep beatin the crap outta your Cougars! LOL...
    BTW, congrats to the Gaels on your championship! Wish we could've given you a better game but it is what it is...no excuses. We got smashed! But it doesn't matter now because we'll start preparing again for next year! Best of luck to all the seniors who will be moving on! Go Patriots!!

  19. @Jr Tauanuu - I wish everyone had the same attitude as you. Your team played a great game despite the final score. There's much respect from the other side of the ball, there's no doubt about that.

  20. I want to make this clear, I am in no way saying that the kids or parents at Gorman dont work hard. We know you are machines(in a good way). Public schools are not allowed to improve the facilities as you are at Gorman. We cant just raise money and say lets build a new stadium, its not allowed. We are not allowed to do the things you do at Gorman. We work hard to but there are limits. Call the district and tell them you want to improve a school. See what happens next. Red tape.
    We can not legally talk to any kid that is not in our district. Gorman has no district so they can talk to everyone.
    To say that you work hard for your kids and that other don't is not true. Also if you are so proud of your accomplishments, why does it offend you when people suggest you go play in a more competitive league. It's really a complement that people believe you are good enough to compete in one of the top California leagues. Its not because you cheat or are a dirty program. You school is build like a lot of those schools.
    Now with that said, we can learn something from Gorman. We (public schools) need to work harder and smarter. Go to camps and learn, get stronger. Thats something that Gorman has done. They set the bar weather its fair or not ,its set. We have to try to beat them, best players or not.