Gaels welcome big opportunity

Sports Illustrated says it is No. 3 against No. 6.

ESPN: No. 9 against No. 11.

Rivals: No. 5 against No. 11.

Maxpreps Xcellent: No. 2 against No. 9.

Maxpreps Freeman, which I am guessing is good but not Xcellent in the way Morgan Freeman’s acting is: No. 9 against No. 11.

Max Headroom has yet to release his Top 25 poll for this week.

Welcome to the subjective world of national high school football rankings. I’m not sure who the grand poobah of such lists is, but my money is on the guy sitting in his one-room apartment in Hutchinson, Kan., right now eating canned ravioli and playing on the computer.

Yeah. That guy.

What the ranking gurus agree on is that tonight’s game between visiting Armwood High of Seffner, Fla., and Bishop Gorman includes two of the country’s best teams. ESPN2 will televise the action live. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. It’s pretty heady stuff.

Armwood is ranked above the Gaels in all of the aforementioned polls and is said to have at least 13 players who will sign Division I scholarships. That’s high school football in Florida, where kids have been known to build blinding speed by chasing rabbits through sugarcane fields and there are as many skilled players as there are orange groves.

It all means one thing for Bishop Gorman: the next enormous opportunity.

“It’s another great way to find out where we stand,” Gaels coach Tony Sanchez said. “We haven’t talked about our ranking. You won’t see anything about it in our locker room. But we have talked about theirs. It’s a great source of motivation. This will be the best team by far that we have played in my three years here.

“If we go out and compete and play with these guys, it will again shed light on the fact there is some pretty good football being played in our state.”

It is the most important detail of such a featured game under the lights of a Friday night. Rankings at the prep level are fun for those mentioned and yet are compiled mostly based on a program’s history and the number of stars attached to prospects’ names, the latter being another subjective exercise defined by more guesswork than not.

To suggest the No. 11 high school team is any better than a No. 44 from a different state and one it never will play is silly. Most all rankings agree Don Bosco Prep from New Jersey is the nation’s best this season, but it might as well be Donnie Brasco to anyone west of the Holland Tunnel.

One recruiting service last week changed its Top 10 rankings based on “practice evaluation.”

By whom, the janitor? The school bus driver? The librarian?

One service ranked Palo Verde No. 913, which means whoever thinks of the Panthers in such a manner also would be astutely aware of all the strengths and weaknesses of the 912 in front of them. Come now.

What tonight is about reaches beyond Bishop Gorman, which under Sanchez has continued to fatten an already stout history of success. The Gaels opened last week by beating then-No. 10 Chaparral of Scottsdale, Ariz., 42-22 and still have lost just twice since their coach arrived in 2009.

Tonight is about this: Nevada hardly is respected nationally as a mainstay of outstanding prep sports, and don’t think about mentioning Findlay Prep in basketball, given athletes from far-away places define its roster.

This is a game to embrace locally, to follow, to watch, to attend, to see how the best Las Vegas offers measures up to the country’s No. 2, 3, 5, 9 and 9 again team.

After all, they annually award a national champion in high school football, and I’m thinking the trophy is a cool bronzed bust of Max Headroom.

Why can’t it be shipped to Bishop Gorman this year?

“I never want to get ahead of myself, but at the end of the day, if we go out and take care of business and play well every game, we have a chance to be in every one and win every one and win another state championship,” Sanchez said. “If that happens, we’d be fired up and elated. Whether that means we would be No. 8 or No. 10 or have a chance to be ranked No. 1 is anyone’s guess.

“To me, if you’re ranked in the Top 100, it means you have a darn good quality program. It’s just great to be in the conversation. Who’s to say the team that ends up undefeated at No. 5 isn’t better than No. 1? I know we work hard for everything we earn. I know we just don’t roll the balls out there every day. I also know we will never lose one minute of sleep over someone else’s opinion of us.”

I hope the ravioli guy is listening.

And, mostly, watching tonight.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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