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Bishop Gorman wilts late, blows chance to win national title

Bishop Gorman didn’t seem to have much to be concerned about when Matthew Krneta made a 46-yard field goal for Hamilton (Arizona) on Friday night.

The seventh-ranked Gaels still had a 24-10 lead with 1:05 left over the No. 24 Huskies in Chandler, Arizona, and the ESPNU commentators were talking about how the kick only made the final outcome look a little closer.

There was no reason to think otherwise. The game essentially was over.

Then Hamilton got an onside kick and marched 44 yards in four plays for a touchdown. OK, Gorman still had a 24-17 lead with 29 seconds left.

But the Huskies got another onside kick. This time, they needed to go 48 yards. On the fourth play of the drive, quarterback Nicco Marchiol found a wide-open Nick Switzer, who waltzed into the end zone for a 22-yard TD with eight seconds left.

Hamilton decided to play for the win, and Marchiol escaped immediate pressure on the 2-point conversion attempt, found room around the left side and dived into the corner of the end zone.

Eighteen points in the final 1:05. Final score: Hamilton 25, Gorman 24.

A call to Gorman coach Brent Browner on Saturday seeking reaction was not returned.

To understand how unlikely the comeback was, consider the sheer dominance the Gorman defense displayed until that point.

Hamilton went 62 yards on its first drive for a touchdown. From that point until the Huskies got the ball with 2:43 to play, they had only 60 more yards and trailed 24-7.

Even with the late barrage, Gorman outgained Hamilton 453 to 234 yards, including 271 to 90 rushing. The Gaels defense battered Marchiol so much that he was limping between plays and had blood running down his left arm late in the game.

The commentators wondered aloud if Marchiol should have been taken out of the game to avoid further punishment, and he waved his backup off the field a couple of times.

A tip of the cap to Marchiol for his toughness and to Hamilton for not giving up.

But this was really about Gorman. The Gaels had every opportunity to win but collapsed. A victory would have meant their first undefeated run against out-of-state competition since 2016.

They would have had two wins over top-25 opponents, as Miami Central (Florida) was also ranked 24th, and probably would have continued moving up the national polls with an outside shot at a fourth national championship.

After a frenetic 65 seconds in Chandler, those aspirations are gone. It should have never come to that. Gorman had a 57-yard touchdown run by DeVon Rice early in the third quarter called back by a penalty, and Micah Alejado threw an interception — the first of the sophomore’s career — in the end zone to stop a drive.

In the fourth quarter, Kodi Decambra intercepted a Marchiol pass and took the ball deep into Hamilton territory, only to have most of the return called back on a personal foul penalty. The Gaels went three-and-out and punted. Without the penalty, even had they gone three-and-out, it probably would have meant a field goal and 20-point lead.

The Gaels were called for personal fouls on back-to-back plays on the Huskies’ field-goal drive, one after a 28-yard Marchiol run and another after a sack. Had the clock not been stopped after those two plays, Hamilton probably would have run out of time.

Gorman showed without a doubt that it was the better team. But the better team doesn’t always win, and it could take some time for the Gaels to get over this loss.

Going for the win

Two Class 5A games were decided by 2-point conversions either late in regulation or overtime.

Arbor View rallied from a 21-7 deficit against Desert Pines, and Richard Washington scored with 1:02 left to make the score 21-20. Arbor View coach Matt Gerber opted for the 2-point try, and Kyle Holmes connected with Logan Clogston in the end zone to give the Aggies a 22-21 win.

Faith Lutheran wasn’t as lucky. The Crusaders matched Canyon Springs’ touchdown in overtime, but their 2-point pass failed in a 28-27 loss.

Game of the week

Gorman-Hamilton.

First look

League play begins across the valley in Class 5A, 4A and 3A, highlighted by Gorman hosting Arbor View in a 5A Desert League matchup.

Faith Lutheran travels to meet Liberty, and Desert Pines hosts Centennial in 5A Mountain League play. Clark will try to stay unbeaten with a road game against Las Vegas in 4A Mountain League action.

Pahrump Valley at Boulder City, a Mountain League opener, figures to be the 3A game to watch.

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

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