Hopes high for football state finalists

For one team, playing on the first Saturday in December was expected. For the other, it’s a pleasant surprise.

No matter the expectations, Bishop Gorman (14-0) and Del Sol (12-1) will play for the Class 4A state football championship at 12:07 p.m. today at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"We’re just really excited to be here," Del Sol quarterback Troy Miller said. "We didn’t expect to get this far at the beginning of the season, so everyone’s real happy."

For many at Gorman, the expectations go back much further than the beginning of the season.

"We talked about this since freshman year," Gorman senior tight end Xavier Grimble said. "We always knew when we were seniors we wanted to win a state championship together. That’s something we always wanted to accomplish. We’ve come so far, we’ve grown so much, and we’ve grown together."

Gorman’s appearance in the title game has basically been a foregone conclusion for weeks. But Del Sol certainly wasn’t a lock. The Dragons returned just one offensive starter and only two full-time starters on defense from last year’s team.

"The first half of the first game we played at Valley, I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t even know if this is going to be a playoff team,’ " Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said.

"We kept plugging away with these guys, and they’ve just gotten better every week. They’ve got a really strong resolve."

Del Sol has always been a power running team, but Goroff said it’s the emergence of the passing game that has made the difference. Miller has passed for 1,620 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He has passed for 910 yards and 13 TDs in the last five games.

"I think that’s why we’re here, because we’re able to do that," Goroff said. "First of all, having a receiver like Evan (Weinstock) can make a lot of people look good. But Troy is actually a really good quarterback.

"We are such a better offensive football team because we can throw the ball now."

Weinstock (41 catches, 841 yards, 14 TDs) has emerged as a standout receiver, but don’t expect the Dragons to abandon the run.

"They’re going to line up and run the ball right at you," Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. "They’re going to take their shots with (Weinstock), but for the most part, they love to run the football, and they do a good job of it."

Dezerick Reed has become the team’s go-to back this season, rushing for 1,918 yards and 21 TDs. He was limited to four carries by an ankle injury in last week’s Sunrise Region title game, but Goroff said he expects Reed to be fine for the title game.

"We’re just going to run," tight end Daniel Doph said. "That’s how we do it."

Gorman has dominated the opposition all season, averaging 52.6 points per game. The Gaels have allowed an average of 8.1 points and have posted five shutouts.

Despite the perceived advantage the Gaels have, the players are focused on taking advantage of their opportunity.

"My brother (DeAngelo) actually went here, and he had a real good senior class, and they didn’t make this game," senior defensive tackle Tim Wilkinson said. "It happens not that often. And considering how many high schools there are in Las Vegas, and you’re a senior, that’s very special."

Grimble said: "I don’t want to leave Gorman knowing I had a state championship in my hands and I let it slip away. I really can’t wait to go out there and spend my last four quarters with my team and coaches and these guys I’ve known for years and just go out there and play our butts off."

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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