Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 | 2 a.m.
When the Bishop Gorman High football team takes the field Friday for its season opener in the Sollenberger Classic against Mountain Pointe of Arizona, the bright television lights will again be shining on the Las Vegas powerhouse.
It’s a familiar stage.
The game, which will be televised on Fox Sports 1, will be Gorman’s 10th contest on national television since 2009, giving the four-time Nevada state champions the perfect platform to continue their rise from local power to a respected national program.
Gorman’s nonconference schedule will be stacked with six out-of-state opponents to open the season in continuing coach Tony Sanchez’s scheduling philosophy. Gorman wants to play the best in the preseason so they are battle-tested when it’s time to play for a state championship.
You can’t argue with the results.
Gorman has won 56 of 60 games in Sanchez’s four seasons. All of the defeats have come against a national opponent ranked in the top 25. And in each loss, Gorman had the lead.
Against Las Vegas- area teams, the Gaels haven’t lost to a local opponent since 2008, winning all but one game by more than 20 points in becoming one of the state’s best all-time dynasties.
“We treat every single game the same no matter if it is on television, no matter who is across the field from us,” said Zack Singer, Gorman’s senior two-way lineman and one of its leaders.
“Our practice is no different. Our preparation is no different,” he said. “My mindset is no different. Out team’s mindset is no different. It really doesn’t matter if the game is on television or not.”
But Mountain Pointe, a respected Phoenix program that finished last season ranked in the top 100 nationally by Maxpreps, is no ordinary opponent. The Pride’s quarterback passed for 2,700 yards last season, they have two four-star recruiting prospects and other players being heavily recruited, and scouting reports indicate they have the speed and the size to match Gorman.
This, after all, isn’t the first time Gorman has faced a stiff early-season foe.
“Chaparral, Hamilton, Armwood, Good Counsel,” Sanchez said, listing big games his teams played in the preseason over the years. “Our kids will not get rattled. This is just another great team coming in.”
Gorman will have some new pieces, especially offensively, making immediate contributions.
They graduated a four-year starter at quarterback and a pair of Division I wide receivers. Then, during the offseason they lost a four-star running back considered one of the nation’s best.
The new look offense, however, won’t be short on talent.
Senior Randall Cunningham, son of the UNLV and NFL great, will start at quarterback and is drawing comparisons to his dad. He’s super athletic at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds and already has double-digit scholarship offers coming from Baylor, Mississippi State and Syracuse. One of his main targets will be junior tight end Alize Jones, who last week was rated by Scout.com as one of 20 five-star recruits nationally. He also has multiple major scholarship offers.
Senior Daniel Stewart at running back has emerged as the starter and quickly earned the confidence from his teammates. The offensive line is massive, including Singer at center and Nick Gates, a 6-foot-5, 270 pound tackle with a scholarship offer from Alabama.
“We look good,” Singer said of the offense. “I’m real confident in what Randall has to offer and what (Daniel) has to offer.”
Gorman also has more than its share of capable players on defense.
Singer is a three-year starter on the line, junior linebacker Nela Otukolo has received rave reviews since transferring from Hawaii and junior defensive tackle Noah Tialavea has blossomed into a force. In the secondary, Armand Perry is a three-star prospect committed to Arizona State, junior safety Nicco Fertitta already has three scholarship offers, and defensive backs Dylan Weldon and junior Jabari Butler have shown promise.
The roster of talented players is a big reason Sanchez doesn’t expect a decline. The Gaels have outscored opponents 3,105-651 during Sanchez’s tenure.
“I believe in the guys. They have worked extremely hard year in and year out. They always do,” Sanchez said. “They expect me to be confident in them. It’s not being arrogant; it’s confident.
“I know we have done a good job of teaching the guys and they have put in a great effort. I’m confident we’ll go out and compete hard Friday night. If we execute well, we’ll come out with a win.”