RENO – National champions.
The final high school national rankings won’t be released for a few more weeks after other states complete their playoffs. But all signs point to Bishop Gorman claiming Nevada’s first football national title after concluding its season with its sixth straight state championship following a convincing 70-28 victory over Reed on Saturday afternoon at Damonte Ranch High School.
The Gaels came into the contest ranked No. 1 in five different prep rankings and with impressive preseason wins over eventual Utah 5A champ Bingham, defending national champion St. John Bosco and southern California Pac-5 champ Corona Centennial on their resume.
“That’s not up to me but all I know is that we’ve done everything asked of us,” Sanchez said. “We played a grueling, tough schedule … We’ve got like six starters out and the kids still go out and play with a high level of efficiency. We’ve done everything that we needed to do to keep (the No. 1 ranking).”
On a day when former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali made a rare public appearance to watch grandson Biaggio Walsh score a pair of touchdowns for Gorman and rap superstar Snoop Dogg saw his son Cordell Broadus catch a pair of touchdown passes for the Gaels, it was sophomore quarterback Tate “Money” Martell who stole the spotlight.
The 2014 Gatorade state player of the year completed 9-of-13 passes for 200 yards and six touchdowns and also ran for another score as Bishop Gorman (15-0) rolled up 594 yards in offense.
Reed (11-4) actually hung with the Gaels for the most of the first half, rallying from an early 21-7 deficit to tie it, 21-21, on a one-yard run by Jordan Carter.
Gorman fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Reed had an excellent chance to take the lead. But the Gaels’ defense stiffened and stopped the Raiders on downs. Martell scored on a two-yard run a few minutes later, and Gorman went into halftime with a 35-21 lead after Martell connected with Tyjon Lindsey for a 63-yard touchdown.
“They did what we expected them to do,” Sanchez said. “They showed up and played like what a gutsy, tough football team does. Coach (Ernie) Howren does it as good as anybody. … Those kids work just like our kids do. They’re champions for a reason. They showed up early and played extremely well.”
“They came out swinging,” safety Nicco Fertitta said. “It was a fight and we came back and we don’t quit.”
Especially with so much on the line.
“There’s 26,000 schools in the country and you finish No. 1 … that’s just amazing,” Martell said.
“I can’t describe it at all,” two-way line star Jackson Perry said of winning a national title. “It’s the most amazing feeling that I’ve ever had.”
“The magnitude (of winning a national championship) is amazing,” added Fertitta “Not only does it help Bishop Gorman get recognition but it helps all of Nevada get recognition. It lets people know that, wow, they play real football there. Hopefully it brings more exposure to our athletes here.”
The Gaels scored 70 points despite playing without All-American tight end Alize Jones (high ankle sprain). The Notre Dame-bound Fertitta, meanwhile, played with a heavily taped left hand that will require surgery to repair broken bones.
“The hand hurts real bad,” he said. “I could feel it cracking and popping. But I was going to finish.”
Now the question is will Sanchez, long considered the frontrunner to replace Bobby Hauck as head coach at UNLV, be back to try for a seventh consecutive state crown.
“Right now I’m just excited to be celebrating the day and celebrating the win,” Sanchez said. “I’m just going to enjoy this day with my kids.”