Gorman, Palo Verde set bar high

Bishop Gorman and Palo Verde share more than Summerlin location.

The schools are the football favorites in the Sunset Region. And neither team will be satisfied with just making the playoffs.

Palo Verde, which lost 13-12 to McQueen in last year's Class 4A state title game, is especially eager to return.

"That's what we said after the game, 'We're going to be back here,' " senior linebacker/offensive tackle Daniel Godkin said. "That's where we see ourselves. (Some) teams look at, 'Oh, we've got to make the playoffs.' If we don't win state, that's it for us."

The attitude isn't much different at Bishop Gorman, where the Gaels are excited under first-year coach Tony Sanchez.

"The focus of this group is definitely to win state," senior defensive tackle Ian Bobak said. "Half of the kids on this team won the state title back in '07. We know what it's like to win a state championship. We know what it's going to take, and we're definitely going to fight as hard as we can to win that.

"A league title and a division title is definitely good, but we're shooting for state."

Though Palo Verde lost a host of talented players, the Panthers have regrouped quickly and appear to be the team to beat in the Sunset.

The loss of Chaz Thomas, Torin Harris and Sidney Hodge from the backfield left a huge hole, as those three accounted for 3,320 yards and 35 touchdowns last season.

Yet the running game shouldn't be a problem for the Panthers.

"It kind of feels like when you watch USC and they have all those eight or nine running backs to choose from," Godkin said. "It kind of feels like we've got about six guys that we can throw in there."

Senior Tyrone Blake will lead the way after rushing for 919 yards and 11 TDs as a fullback last year. He'll move to wing this season in the Panthers' double-wing offense.

But he'll get plenty of help, as transfers Ernest Hall (Del Sol) and Brandon Wright (Centennial) offer talented options, as well. Hall rushed for 1,198 yards and 15 TDs, and Wright had 977 yards and 13 TDs.

And Palo Verde is deep enough at running back that neither Hall nor Wright is slated to start at the beginning of the season.

The other wingback slot will be manned by the speedy Chappell Thomas, Chaz Thomas' younger brother.

Add in track sprinter Courtney Robinson, and the Panthers have an embarrassment of riches in the backfield.

The defense should be stout again, although several key players are switching positions.

All-Sunset Region defensive end Godkin moves to middle linebacker to replace three-year starter Dave Castro.

"Moving Daniel Godkin from (defensive) end to linebacker really shocked me, but he's doing real well there," Blake said. "Our defense is still strong."

Blake moves from linebacker to safety to help shore up a secondary that was wiped out by graduation.

Hall, an All-Sunrise Region defensive back, will step in at safety, and Chappell Thomas takes over one of the cornerback spots vacated by Hodge (UNLV) and Harris (Southern California).

"Our defense is looking really good," Godkin said. "We lost some guys, of course, but we're bigger than we were last year. Our corners are not Torin, but they're fast and they're quick and they know what they're doing. We look real good. I'm really excited about the season."

Gorman features several Division I prospects, including four players who have committed to Pacific-10 Conference schools.

The defensive line should be the strength with Stanford commitment Alex Turner joined by Bobak, All-Southwest League defensive tackle Tim Wilkinson and junior defensive end Jalen Grimble, who already has offers from Division I powers Louisiana State and Southern California.

Linebacker Evan Palelei also has committed to Stanford.

"We're very fortunate, very blessed to have some talented players on the front," Turner said. "I think we've got to produce. We can't take for granted that we're a real talented front. I'm looking forward to producing."

The Gaels lost most of their skill players to graduation, but will lean on tight end Xavier Grimble, who has committed to USC, and tackle Geoffrey Gibson, who has committed to California.

Contact Prep Sports Editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.