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Bishop Gorman closes out-of-state slate with national TV showcase

When Bishop Gorman takes the field for football practice at Fertitta Field, the Gaels are reminded of the standard the program has set.

The wall at the south end zone of the complex reads, “National champions 2014, 2015, 2016.”

Those Gaels were part of a 55-game winning streak, a run that included victories over elite programs from across the country.

On Friday, Gorman (3-0), ranked No. 7 in the nation by USA Today, will travel to meet No. 24 Hamilton (Arizona) at 7 p.m., hoping to sweep its out-of-state schedule for the first time since its last national championship in 2016.

The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU, the first time the Gaels have had a chance to showcase their program on national TV since a 42-0 loss to Mater Dei (California) in the 2018 season opener.

“(National exposure) is a humongous thing, and being on ESPN is a blessing,” Gorman coach Brent Browner said. “We’re going to put a great product out there and represent Nevada. It’s the first time in a while that the guys have been on ESPN, so it’s a great opportunity.”

While Gorman has remained a fixture in various national top-25 rankings since its last national title, it hasn’t maintained the same level.

In 2017, the Gaels had their winning streak ended and lost back-to-back games. In 2018, they were 1-3 in out-of-state games. The 2019 team lost in the state quarterfinals against Liberty, ending a 115-game winning streak against in-state opponents and 10-year run of state championships.

The Gaels didn’t get a chance to redeem themselves because of COVID-19 in 2020, but they have come out with a vengeance this season.

“I’m extremely thankful for the teams that have played us this year,” senior offensive lineman Jake Taylor said. “Like the Bible verse says, iron sharpens iron, and we played the best schedule we could have found this year. Last year sucked, but it built the tightest team I’ve ever played for.”

Gorman has defeated powerhouse teams in St. Louis (Hawaii) 42-21, Miami Central (Florida) 21-20 and Lone Peak (Utah) 35-7. The Gaels lost to St. Louis in 2019 and held on for a 28-21 win over Lone Peak, so taking comfortable wins over both made a statement.

The game against Miami Central was the toughest test. Sophomore quarterback Micah Alejado led the Gaels on a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, and they survived a Rocket field goal that went off the crossbar and was no good as time expired.

“I absolutely love him,” Taylor said of Alejado. “He’s my favorite quarterback I’ve ever blocked for because he means his love for the linemen. Every drive it’s, ‘Come on, boys, I need you.’ And we’re like, ‘We’ve got you.’ I’m extremely proud of him. There were some doubters and haters this year, but he’s shut them up against these great teams we’re playing.”

Hamilton (2-0) should give the Gorman secondary another test, with West Virginia commit Nicco Marchiol at quarterback, Michigan State commit Michael Masunas at tight end and Christian Anaya, who has several Football Championship Subdivision offers, at wide receiver.

Arizona commit Russell Davis leads a tough Hamilton defense that has allowed 10 points per game.

“They pass the ball a lot, which is great for our defense,” senior safety Zion Branch said. “I think we have one of the best defensive back corps in the nation, but they’re talented, too. It’s going to be a good game.”

Gorman probably doesn’t want to make too much of one game because there is a lot of season left and the ultimate goal is to take back the state championship.

But this is probably the Gaels’ final chance to enhance their standing in the rankings and represent Nevada on the national stage this season.

“We came into the season with a lot of confidence, and winning these games has only helped that,” Branch said. “The 2014, 2015 and 2016 teams are the guys we looked up to, with them being the best in the country. Having us high in the rankings is great for Las Vegas, and our goals are to take the state back and be in the running for a national championship.”

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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