Gaels not sidetracked in bid for another title

SPARKS — Another trip north, another victory for Bishop Gorman, and another spot in the state championship game.

The Gaels shrugged off a slow start and their first deficit of the season against a Nevada opponent, pulling away for a 49-24 win over Reed in the Division I state semifinals Saturday.

The victory was Gorman’s third in four years in northern Nevada during the postseason — by the slimmest margin yet — and sent the Gaels (12-1) in search of their fourth consecutive state championship next Saturday against Liberty (11-1) at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“It’s exhausting but exhilarating,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “We’re getting ready to go play our 60th game in four years. That’s a lot of football. Now we have to go get one more.”

Reaching the title game wasn’t as easy as expected, based on Gorman’s 41-point win over Reed in a 2009 state semifinal and 44-point victory in last year’s final.

But the Raiders forced two first-half turnovers, converting an interception of a Jarrett Solomon pass into a 7-0 lead on Ty Shepard’s 1-yard run. Even after Solomon settled down and led Gorman to a 14-7 lead, Reed tied it again and briefly nursed hopes of snapping the Gaels’ 47-game winning streak against in-state opponents.

“We’ve been preparing for this for I don’t know how many weeks. We just came out like we have all season,” Reed receiver Brett Chaney said.  “We expected a good game and it was a good game.”

Running back Nathan Starks, who propelled Gorman with 207 yards rushing and three second-half touchdowns, admitted the Gaels were back on their heels after Reed’s steady start.

“It was really stressful because we’re used to coming out on teams and making a statement really fast,” Starks said. “We just didn’t do that today. ... Once we realized they were really coming to play a game, we had to get our heads together. We could have fell behind if we didn’t get it together in the second half.”

Gorman scored on its final three possession of the half, the latter a momentum-swinging 73-yard pass from Solomon to Ryan Smith for a 21-14 lead.

“Going into halftime with a lead is a huge difference than going in with an even game,” Sanchez said. “Anytime a team is playing catch-up, trying to come up the hill, it’s harder.

“I told the kids at halftime that we came out flat. I give Reed credit, don’t get me wrong. They came out with a good game plan and I felt our kids were playing a little uninspired. Sometimes we take things for granted. A lot of things get written all the time about this and that, and unfortunately they’re teenagers and they believe all that stuff. But we know better as adults.”

Reed got within 21-17 on Chris Denn’s 30-yard field goal midway through the third, but Starks made sure the Gaels returned home with a comfortable win.

The junior rushed for 165 yards after halftime, scoring on back-to-back runs of 6 and 54 yards to make it 35-17 one play into the fourth quarter. He added a 56-yard TD and completed a 41-yard pass.

“We challenged (Starks), we challenged the offensive line,” Sanchez said. “Like most great backs, sometimes it takes a little while to get going. You can’t give up on him; you have to keep feeding him.”

Solomon completed 11 of 14 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns after an 0-for-5 start, and ran 17 yards for a score. Jamir Tillman made seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.