Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 | 11:30 p.m.
The sequence of plays at the beginning of the Bishop Gorman football team’s season opener Friday set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Gaels received the ball first against visiting Mountain Pointe of Phoenix in the Sollenberger Classic, but were forced to punt after three plays.
When Mountain Pointe got the ball running back Paul Lucas rushed for a 48-yard touchdown run on the first play.
Gorman could never erase the deficit, surrendering more than 300 rushing yards in dropping its season opener, 28-21.
“We lost a seven point ball game to a really good team and we have a lot of work to do,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “But we’ll get better.”
Gorman twice trailed by 14 points in the second half, but each time quickly scored to make it a one-touchdown game.
Daniel Stewart had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with about five minutes to play to give Gorman a chance late, but the Gaels never got the ball back with Mountain Pointe picking up a few first downs to run out the clock.
Four-time defending state champion Gorman, which is ranked No. 21 by USA Today, showed flashes of being a great team. Other times, however, they played like a team with much to work on.
Gorman forced four turnovers, but struggled capitalizing on the Mountain Pointe miscues — especially early in the second half.
Gorman’s Kenyan Coker recovered a Mountain Pointe fumble at the 20-yard line on the opening kickoff of the half with the Gaels trailing 14-7, but Gorman couldn’t put any points on the board in turning the ball over on downs.
Mountain Pointe proceeded to drive the length of the field for a 21-7 lead. It was a swing in points that ultimately cost Gorman the game.
“Our defense created some turnovers and opportunities for the offense we didn’t execute on,” Sanchez said.
In his debut as the Gorman starting quarterback, highly touted senior Randall Cunningham II needed a few plays to get comfortable running the offense. The Gaels had just 30 yards of total offense in the first quarter with Cunningham completing 1 of 3 passes for one yard. Twice they went three-and-out.
But midway through the third quarter with Gorman trailing by 14, Cunningham was able to excel running the ball in leading Gorman on a scoring drive. He had a 33-yard rush to get Gorman deep into Mountain Pointe territory and punched it into the endzone with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Gorman’s passing attack was non-existent with Cunningham completing just five passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, a 48-yard scoring strike to Obim Okeke to even the game at seven in the second quarter. Okeke raced down the sideline after catching the pass and stiff-armed a Mountain Pointe defender in fighting his way to the endzone.
It was one of the lone highlights for Cunningham, who attempted just 12 passes.
“It really took us a long time to get the offense going,” Sanchez said. “We sputtered at times. We never really found ourself. I thought Randall did a good job of progressing. He really showed some athleticism and courage down the stretch.”
Gorman won’t have much time to recover from the defeat. Its schedule is packed with six quality out-of-state teams to open the season, hosting Southern California power Servite next week.
“We need to work hard. That is what we need to do, work harder,” Stewart said.
The two-game Sollenberger Classic continues Saturday when Liberty takes on Tucson's Salpointe Catholic at Gorman.