Take a quick look at Bishop Gorman’s football schedule, and images of beaches, palm trees and luaus might come to mind.
A trip to Hawaii next week is the highlight of the Gaels’ four-game schedule against out-of-state opponents to open the season, not only for the location but also the opponent. St. Louis of Honolulu is ranked No. 12 in the nation by USA Today.
But they don’t have to think about that trip just yet. Gorman opens its season against Orem (Utah) at 7 p.m. Friday at Fertitta Field.
“When we told them we were going to (Hawaii), I’m not sure who was more excited, their parents or them,” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “We tried to do our best to think about that trip in the summer when we announced it and then put it away until after Friday. Then we can get more excited about it.”
The Gaels, ranked 18th by USA Today, also meet Servite (California) at home and travel to Lone Peak (Utah) before opening play against valley schools.
“It’s a great experience for us high schoolers, because that’s what you do in college,” said senior wide receiver Rome Odunze, a Washington commit. “Every other week you’re going out and playing somebody in a new territory — their territory. It’s fun, but the team learns. It’s fun because you have some pride for your own state.”
Gorman defeated an Orem team 31-21 last season that went on to win its second straight Class 4A state championship. The Tigers opened this season with a 30-14 loss to Canyon Corner, the defending Class 6A state champion in Utah.
“Their defense is extremely good this year,” Sanchez said. “On offense, they’ve got some weapons, but I think they’re still trying to find their way. But they’ve got a game under their belt against a really good team, so that’s going to help them.”
The Gaels will rely heavily on young players, but they have experience at the most important position.
Quarterback Micah Bowens completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,770 yards and 29 touchdowns with eight interceptions last season. The Penn State commit also had 927 yards rushing and 15 TDs in his first year as a starter and was named the Southwest League’s Offensive MVP.
Bowens, a senior, said the team’s goal is to uphold the standard that has been set at Gorman. The Gaels have won 10 consecutive large-school state titles and also were mythical national champions in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“It’s a set thing here at Gorman. We expect the greatest from everybody,” Bowens said. “We expect everybody to put in the work to see another national championship up there. We go out there every day, and we look up there. That’s what motivates us every day is to continue the legacy of what the people who came before us did.”
Bowens will be throwing to his favorite target again in Odunze, a first-team all-state player who caught 60 passes for 1,347 yards and 15 TDs last season. Sanchez said Bowens and Odunze are “our dudes on offense. We make no secret about it. It’s him to him.”
Most of the experience on defense is in the front seven, led by linebacker Bryan Certain and defensive linemen Dahlin Mesake, Ishe Smith and Connor Fryar.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, but they’ve all got dog in them,” Odunze said. “They all want to play. They’re not scared of anybody.”
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Contact Jason Orts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @SportsWithOrts.
Who: Orem (Utah) vs. Bishop Gorman
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Bishop Gorman High School
All times 7 p.m. unless noted
El Capitan (Ariz.) vs. Beaver Dam (at Virgin Valley), 6 p.m.
Coachella Valley (Calif.) at Foothill, 6 p.m.
Shadow Ridge at Snow Canyon (Utah), 6 p.m.
Moapa Valley at Canyon View (Utah), 6 p.m.
Mojave at Chaparral
Virgin Valley vs. Clark (at Spring Valley)
Arbor View at Basic
Burroughs (Calif.) at Legacy
Foothill (Calif.) at Coronado
Palo Verde at Durango
Centennial at Sierra Vista
Adelanto (Calif.) at Las Vegas
Orem (Utah) at Bishop Gorman
Mountain Pointe (Ariz.) at Faith Lutheran
Green Valley at Huntington Beach (Calif.)
Chandler (Ariz.) at Liberty
Rancho at Western
Eldorado at Cheyenne
Cimarron-Memorial at Boulder City
Lowry at Pahrump Valley
Valley at Bonanza
Del Sol at Desert Oasis
Needles at River Valley (Ariz.)
SLAM Academy at Calvary Chapel
The Meadows at Sierra Lutheran, 1 p.m.