Gaels are Sunset's best, far and away


When Centennial's football team scored 20 points against Bishop Gorman on Oct. 19, it turned out the Bulldogs just poked the bear.

Friday night, the bear bit back.

Gorman turned in a dominant performance on the way to a 59-7 home victory for the Division I Sunset Region title. It was the Gaels' fourth consecutive region championship.

"It felt like a loss last time after we gave up that many points," Gorman senior defensive end Jake Smirk said of the 49-20 regular-season win over the Bulldogs. "So we definitely wanted to come into this game focused to do better on defense."

The plan worked. Gorman (11-1) held Centennial (9-3) to 198 total yards and shut out the Bulldogs until the final six minutes. The Gaels, who won the last three Class 4A state titles, will play at Reed in the Division I state semifinals Nov. 24 in Sparks.

"Our goal all week was to shut them out," Smirk said. "Unfortunately they (scored) that touchdown at the end, but it was still a great win. I know their goal was to run it at us all game, and I think we did pretty well with that."

Centennial, which came in averaging 218.7 rushing yards per game, was limited to 66 yards on the ground.

"The kids had a lot of resolve," Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said of his defense. "(They said) 'We're better than this, we're better than people think, let's come out and play a great game.' And it was a phenomenal defensive effort.

"That was championship defense."

Centennial had hoped to move the chains and control the clock, but the Bulldogs' ground game never got going. Gorman had three touchdowns before Centennial had three first downs, and the defense had a hand in a pair of first-half touchdowns.

Justin Sweet intercepted a pass deflected by defensive end Isaiah Nacua and raced down the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first quarter for a 21-0 lead.

Smirk got into the action on Centennial's next possession, scooping up a fumble and rumbling 65 yards to make it 28-0.

"It was pretty awesome," Smirk said. "I got a great block from Lorenzo (Fertitta), so that's what really made the touchdown."

The Gaels took advantage of another turnover when Austin Turley's backward pass to Coby Newton went wide, and Gorman's Frank Fertitta recovered at the Centennial 4-yard line.

Quarterback Jarrett Solomon ran for the TD on the next play, bumping Gorman's lead to 42-0 with 3:27 left in the half.

Gorman forced four first-half turnovers, with Armand Perry coming up with an interception on the final play before the break.

"Toward the end of the year, we were not ahead in the turnover ratio, and we've never done that in four years," Sanchez said. "And we hadn't scored on defense, so that's been a major emphasis in practice. We want the ball out."

Gorman wasn't done scoring in the half. After forcing a punt, Solomon hit Riley Hoff with a 70-yard touchdown strike to put the Gaels up 49-0 with 1:31 left.

Solomon was 7-for-10 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't take a snap in the second half.

Solomon had a 23-yard screen pass to Nathan Starks for a touchdown, and also scored on two 4-yard runs.

"We've clicked all year," Sanchez said. "It hasn't made a difference who we've played, our offense has clicked. The only thing that's stopped us all year is ourselves.

"We know what we need to do on offense to be productive."

Tajon Allen had touchdown runs of 1 yard and 3 yards, and Kline Fielden kicked a 35-yard field goal for Gorman.

Centennial's lone highlight was Turley's 43-yard touchdown pass to Brandt Honda with 5:47 to go in the game.

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.