The first test for the nation’s No. 1 high school football team didn’t turn out to be much of a test at all.
Bishop Gorman, ranked No. 1 by USA Today, was dominant defensively, holding Phoenix’s Brophy Prep to 120 yards en route to a 44-0 win in the Sollenberger Classic on Friday night at Gorman.
“It was a great opportunity for us to come out and just see what we’re made of,” senior linebacker Nela Otukolo said. “And I’m proud of how our defense competed and how we stepped up. I seen a lot of young dudes that really stepped up, and I’m just proud of the way we played.
“But it’s just the beginning of everything. We’re going to get back to work tomorrow morning, and we’re going to face that six-week gauntlet we’ve got coming.”
The Gaels (1-0) limited the Broncos to three first downs and 48 yards in the first half, and the game was essentially over at the break as Gorman led 30-0.
Running backs Russell Booze, Biaggio Walsh and Jonathan Shumaker each scored in the first half for the Gaels, who finished with 168 rushing yards. They had 110 at the half, running behind another massive offensive line that averages 287 pounds.
“We know we’re going to be able to run the football,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said.
The three backs shared carries all night, with Shumaker leading the way with 77 yards on six rushes. He had TD runs of 6 and 35 yards.
Booze finished with 12 carries for 65 yards, including scoring runs of 4 and 5 yards. Walsh, a sophomore, had 35 yards on five carries, including a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
“We’re fortunate. We have three guys,” Sanchez said. “Our running back coach says, ‘How do you want to roll them?’ I said, ‘I don’t care what you do, they’re all pretty darn good.’ That’s kind of what we did tonight. Keep them fresh, keep them going. If one guy’s got a hot hand, feed him for a while and then get him out the next series and get another guy in.”
Senior quarterback Danny Hong, making his first start for Gorman, was intercepted on his first pass attempt. But he settled in, completing his next five passes and finishing 8-for-12 for 158 yards and a touchdown.
“He did a good job,” Sanchez said. “He was that close to having a great game. That first read he got excited, and then down there he had a couple other (bad) throws as we were going in, but other than that he did some good things.”
Sanchez said it was important to throw the ball again quickly after Hong was intercepted on Gorman’s first offensive play.
“After he threw the pick, we came right back and threw the ball, put it right back in his hands and just let him play catch a little bit,” Sanchez said. “I thought he responded well.”
Hong’s touchdown pass came on a short toss to tight end Alize Jones, who broke a tackle and streaked down the sideline for an 80-yard score. Jones finished with four catches for 125 yards.
Gorman’s defense sacked Brophy quarterback Cade Knox four times, and the Gaels got interceptions by Ikem Okeke and Bryce Garcia.
Gorman limited Ryan Velez, who rushed for 1,189 yards as a sophomore last season, to 8 yards on 11 carries.
“I’m just so proud of our whole defensive group, from our front all the way to our secondary,” Otukolo said. “I’m proud of each of my guys and how we competed. But like I said, it’s just the beginning, and that’s the scary thing. We’re not at our peak level yet. We’re only getting better every day.”
Contact reporter Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.