It was a couple of days before Bishop Gorman would be departing to play in another state championship game it will be heavily favored to win, and the Gaels’ field goal kickers had the practice field all to themselves.
Four of them — Gorman even has impressive depth at kicker — entertained each other by trying to hit the goalpost while booting footballs crossways from the coffin corner of the end zone.
But when the kickers were joined by their teammates and coaches following position meetings, the Gaels quietly and purposefully went about their business in preparing for the Bishop Manogue Miners, whom they’ll meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Class 5A state championship game in chilly Carson City.
“The guys are excited for the trip, they’re all prepared — but obviously a little disappointed they won’t get to play in the Raiders’ stadium like everybody else will,” coach Brent Browner said about the Gorman juggernaut’s pursuit of its 19th state championship and 12th in the past 13 seasons.
While the other four state title games will be played at climate controlled Allegiant Stadium on Monday, Gorman and Manogue have been relegated to knocking helmets on semi-frozen tundra at Carson High School.
But other than not getting to experience the thrill of playing again in an NFL stadium — the Gaels defeated northern representative McQueen 56-7 at Allegiant in last year’s championship game — Browner said he didn’t have much to gripe about.
Including having to play outdoors in 40-degree weather.
“It’s not going to be too bad — it’ll be close to this right here, actually,” he said after the sun dropped below the rim of the nearby mountains that form a picturesque backdrop for Gorman home games. “We’ve practiced in T-shirts and shorts, to keep them as cold as possible, to get them ready for the weather.”
Browner advised his assistant coaches to do the same, although most pulled up the hoods on their sweatshirts when the sun went down.
But Browner insists that staying well insulated won’t be the Gaels’ biggest concern heading into the matchup with the 11-2 Miners. He said keeping a Manogue side that lit the scoreboard for more than 50 points six times in 13 games will require focus.
“They’ve scored more points than we have this year,” Browner said in alluding to a 12-1 Gorman team that scored a bunch of points of its own in routing city rival Liberty 56-14 in the Southern Region championship game.
But Manogue didn’t play Gorman’s schedule, either.
“Yeah, yeah, everybody says that,” Browner said of the Miners, who last won a state football title in 2003 — a few years before Gorman made the commitment to compete on a national level. “But to put 77 points up (against Carson), you must be doing something right.”
Were it not for a 24-21 loss to top-ranked Mater Dei of Southern California in September, it’s conceivable the Gaels also would be eyeing a fourth national title against Manogue, rather than just adding another NIAA championship trophy to their impressive collection.
But Browner said it’s all about the state title now. And making one last road trip together as a football family.
“We’re going to treat it just like we do Mater Dei, Liberty and everybody else we play,” he said.
— Who: Bishop Gorman vs. Bishop Manogue
— When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
— Where: Carson High School, Carson City
— TV: none
— Streaming: www.nfhsnetwork.com (subscription required)