CORONA, Calif. — Bishop Gorman’s hopes at an undefeated season and possible national title looked bleak early in the fourth quarter Friday night.
Make that very bleak.
The Gaels (4-0), who gave up touchdowns on six of their first seven defensive possessions, trailed Corona Centennial 42-28 with 10:04 to go.
But Bishop Gorman’s defense came up big down the stretch with two stops and the Gaels offense, led by All-American tight end Alize Jones and sophomore quarterback Tate Martell, came up even bigger to pull out a dramatic 43-42 victory.
Martell connected with junior wide receiver Brandon Gahagan on a crossing pattern for a 56-yard touchdown with 2:25 remaining to cut Centennial’s lead to 42-41. Martell then faked a handoff to Russell Booze, rolled to his right and hit a wide-open Jones in the right corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion to give the Gaels their first lead of the game, 43-42.
Bishop Gorman sealed the win two plays later when linebacker Nela Otukolo stripped the ball away from junior running back JJ Taylor, who had scored three touchdowns in the contest, at midfield and tackle Noah Tialavea recovered. The Gaels then ran out the clock for their second consecutive one-point win.
“It looked bleak there for a while but our kids just kept fighting,” Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound UCLA-bound Jones finished with seven catches for 149 yards, including touchdown grabs of 16 and 30 yards, to go along with his game-winning two-point conversion grab.
“We just stayed positive,” Jones said when asked about being faced with a 14-point deficit with 10 minutes to go. “That was the main thing. We weren’t screaming and yelling at each other.
“We didn’t look at the scoreboard. We just said, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got to continue to push, we’ve got to go all out.’ And that’s what we did. Our defense got a great stop, and then our offense … we were putting up points all night. We executed at the end.”
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Martell was clutch down the stretch. He finished 13-of-24 for 268 yards and three touchdowns and also made the biggest run of the night – a 29-yarder on 4th-and-18 on the Gorman 15 to keep the final scoring drive alive. Three plays later, he hit Gahagan breaking across the middle for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Gahagan finished with two passes for 96 yards.
“He had a great game,” Sanchez said.
So did Booze, who led a strong Gorman ground game with 160 yards on 21 carries. Junior Jonathan Shumaker added 73 yards on 13 carries, including a pair of 3-yard touchdown runs, and sophomore Biaggio Walsh had a 30-yard touchdown run.
The Gaels get little time to celebrate. Next up is unbeaten Santa Margarita (3-0) and 6-foot-5 quarterback K.J. Costello, who took the Gaels to double overtime before losing last year, on Friday night at Fertitta Field. That’s followed by defending national champ St. John Bosco (3-0), which leapfrogged the Gaels into the No. 1 spot in USA Today’s national rankings earlier this week (Gorman fell to No. 3), on Sept. 26 on ESPN.
“It’s fun,” Jones said. “Our whole thing is we want beat the best. And to be the best, you have to beat the best. … We love it.”