PEORIA, Ariz. — There was talk last season that Mojave’s Tawee Walker was the best running back in the state. The knock was that he played in Class 3A and wasn’t proving himself against the best schools, so he transferred to Arizona to play the best.
He silenced any doubters Friday night.
Walker rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns, leading Centennial (Arizona) to a 13-7 win over Bishop Gorman. The loss sent the Gaels to 0-2 for the first time since 2005.
“This is one of the best wins of my high school career,” Walker said. “They’re a real good team. Struggled a bit this year but real good team.”
Walker was the beginning, the middle and the end for the Coyotes (2-0). He took a handoff on the second play of the game for 26 yards. He scored midway through the third quarter on a 23-yard run to break a scoreless tie. Then, with 1:36 to play, he delivered the coup de grace — a 9-yard touchdown run for a 13-0 lead.
“Feels real great coming from the city,” Walker said. “I played with most of them, so I knew almost half the team. It was a fun game.”
Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said his team had itself to blame. The Gaels were penalized for 67 yards, and the infractions seemed to come at the worst time. The Gaels erased a fourth-and-5 for Centennial by having 12 men on the field in the first quarter. Right before Walker’s second score, Sanchez took a personal foul to put the Coyotes in striking distance.
Gorman also failed to convert twice on first-and-goal from the 4-yard line in the second half. The first time the Gaels were stuffed on first- and second-down runs, then passes fell incomplete on third and fourth down. The second time, in what became their final meaningful possession, they were stopped on the 1-yard line on two consecutive runs. A penalty followed and backed them up to the 16-yard line.
The fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and Centennial marched down the field.
“We played hard tonight. We just didn’t finish in the red zone,” Sanchez said. “The last play was a long drive, and we didn’t play as hard as we did all game.”
After allowing 42 points in a shutout loss to Mater Dei (California) last week, the Gaels’ defense looked fantastic for most of the night. They held Centennial quarterback Jonathan Morris to 11 of 24 passing for 120 yards, and outside of Walker, the Coyotes gained 60 yards rushing.
The Gaels also registered three sacks and recovered a fumble on a muffed punt.
But the offense has yet to find its groove. Gorman rushed for 5 yards in the first half, and despite second-half improvement and quarterback Micah Bowens throwing for 249 yards, Gorman could never get the yards it needed most. Bowens threw a touchdown to Rome Odunze with 9 seconds left in the fourth, the Gaels’ first points this season.
Bowens threw two interceptions, and Odunze lost a fumble. Odunze caught six passes for 120 yards.
“That’s the game. You win some, you lose some. You have to finish inside the red zone,” Sanchez said. “That’s the bottom line. You can’t be inside the red zone six times and come away with zero points.”