After running a gauntlet of regional and national powers over the first five weeks of the season, prevailing wisdom held Bishop Gorman could set the cruise control with league play beginning on Friday night.
The top-ranked Gaels found a bumpy road, however, as they opened Southwest League action with a 31-18 win at No. 5 Legacy.
“I think we were prepared, but we didn’t expect for them to come out and play as hard as they did,” said Gorman junior running back Russell Booze, who ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns. “There was some frustration (early), but we knew we had to get back to executing and doing things the right way to win this ballgame, and we did that.”
A field goal by the Gaels as the second quarter expired gave them a 10-6 lead that grew as big as 31-12 in the fourth quarter before a late Longhorns score. Still, Gorman (5-2, 1-0) struggled to find consistency in its first game against a Nevada opponent.
“I think it’s natural, especially when you’re young, you come out and not just having played the No. 1 team in the country (last week), but six (big games) in a row and every place we’ve been there’s been 5,000-plus (fans) and rocking music and crazy atmospheres,” Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “You have to kind of come out and create your own energy.
“It was kind of a quieter night, and it gets a little rough when for six weeks you’ve been looking at packed houses and bright lights and you step up and play at that level and, let’s not take anything away from Legacy. Those guys played a heck of a game. I’m not going to sit here and say we played bad and that’s why it was close. They played good, and I felt we could have played a little better.”
Legacy was ready to go from the opening kickoff. The Longhorns recovered an onside kick and grabbed a quick lead on a 48-yard field goal by Julian Castro. Legacy then recovered the next kickoff and appeared ready to go in for a touchdown before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty turned a second-and-1 at the 5-yard line into a second-and-16. Legacy fumbled two plays later.
“(That penalty) kind of crippled us a little bit. We put that in for a score, and I think that changes the complexity of the game a bit. But it is what it is,” Legacy coach Dave Snyder said. “They’re a good football team, and you can’t take anything from them, but they’ve played a lot of teams the last five weeks that are spreading the field, and I don’t know if anyone came out and tried to hammer them.
“I think that was the biggest thing that I don’t know if they were ready for. I’m not sure they had trouble with it, but I don’t know if they were necessary ready for it.”
Booze scored the first of his touchdowns early in the second quarter and extended Gorman’s lead to 17-6 midway through the third one play after a 34-yard punt return by Riley Hoff gave the Gaels great field position.
Booze and Jonathan Shumaker added touchdown runs in the fourth quarter for Gorman.
Casey Hughes ran for 107 yards and a TD for Legacy. Quarterback Devin Williams scored on a keeper from 5 yards out with less than a minute left.
Snyder believed his team might have worn down as the game progressed. “The game came down to depth,” he said. “They have more depth than us, and it showed in the end.”