Gorman captures fourth straight state crown

Bishop Gorman’s skill players scored nine touchdowns, and the Gaels gained 539 yard of offense.

But control of the game all started up front.

Gorman dominated both sides of the line on the way to a 63-10 win over Liberty on Saturday for the Division I state championship at Sam Boyd Stadium. It was the fourth consecutive state title for the Gaels.

“Coach reiterated every single day of the week that it starts up front, ends up front,” two-way lineman Zack Singer said. “We knew they were a big, physical team. We know we’re a big, physical team. We worked on our technique, and really, really made that the key and we knew we could outphysical them. And that’s what happened.”

Gorman limited Liberty to 11 net yards on 29 carries, and the Patriots gained 24 rushing yards on their final drive after both teams had removed their starters. Fifteen Liberty carries were for no gain or a loss.

“The guys with their hand in the dirt, they were determined to make sure they dominated the line of scrimmage, and they did,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said.

Liberty came in averaging 232.5 rushing yards, but Gorman’s defense essentially took away the run. That forced the Patriots to use their spread game more often, going away from their two tight-end, two-fullback sets.

“We really beared in and just used our strength and everything we had to really keep the run down,” Singer said. “And obviously we did good. They came out of their heavy stuff, and that’s their thing, that’s what they lean on. That really took them out of their game plan, and we really shut them down up front and kept them from running the ball.”

Gorman’s offensive line was just as dominant. The Gaels came out pounding the ball on the ground and opened huge holes for junior running back Nathan Starks, who finished with 167 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He gained 143 on nine first-half carries, with eight gains of longer than 10 yards.

Gorman became the first Nevada school to win four consecutive large-school state titles since Reno from 1949 to 1952. All of Gorman’s championship wins were by at least 40 points.

“It’s real easy to become complacent, and our guys never did,” Sanchez said. “Anytime we played in a big game, they just kept playing well. When it mattered, they always showed up. That’s the thing I’m the most proud of them for. They were always willing to answer the call.”

Liberty got a 48-yard field goal by Austin Fitzgerald on the game’s opening drive, but it was the Patriots’ only lead.

Gorman quickly marched 74 yards on eight plays, with Starks running untouched for a 20-yard touchdown.

Starks added a 24-yard scoring run on Gorman’s next drive, and the Gaels led 14-3 without completing a pass.

“They have so many guys going both ways, we just said, 'You know what, let’s just start pounding the ball and let’s really gas them,’ ” Sanchez said.

Liberty kept it interesting, going 82 yards on nine plays, capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by Kai Nacua, and Fitzgerald’s extra point cut the lead to 14-10 with 7:13 left in the half. But it was all Gorman from there.

Sanchez said even that scoring drive helped to wear down the Patriots.

“It’s tough. You go down and you score and then those guys all jump around the ball on defense,” Sanchez said. “It’s just tough to play in these games when you have that many guys going both ways.”

Jarrett Solomon, Gorman’s fourth-year starting quarterback, extended the Gaels’ lead to 28-10 at halftime with touchdown passes to Ryan Smith (35 yards) and sophomore Alize Jones (78).

Solomon missed on his first three pass attempts, including an interception, but completed 7 of 8 the rest of the way for 201 yards and four touchdowns.

He had a 54-yard scoring pass to Smith and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman in the second half.

Solomon closed out his career with 10,113 passing yards. He passed for 138 TDs and threw only 17 interceptions.

“Our offense, we have so many weapons, so when they take the pass away, it opens up the run,” Tillman said. “If they take away the run, it opens up our pass.”

Smith had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jones on a fake field-goal attempt in the third quarter for Gorman, which also got touchdown runs by Justin Sweet (55 yards) and Randall Cunningham (18).