Usually it’s not a good thing when a drive starts inside your 5-yard line.
But Bishop Gorman turned bad field position into two momentum-gaining drives on Friday night.
The Gaels had a pair of 97-yard scoring drives in the first half to take control on the way to a 35-7 win over visiting Palo Verde for the Sunset Region title.
It was Gorman’s third consecutive Sunset title and the second straight year the Gaels (14-1) defeated the Panthers (11-1) in the championship game.
“I was really happy the way we were able to execute on those two drives; however, we did have two drives where we also fumbled the ball,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “I wasn’t very happy with that. We have to clean those things up.”
Gorman takes on Sunrise Region champion Liberty in a Class 4A state semifinal at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Rancho. The winner of that game plays the Northern Region champion in the state final on Dec. 3 in Reno.
Palo Verde had its chance to steal the momentum early when Ryan Beaulieu broke off a 46-yard run to key the Panthers’ opening drive.
Palo Verde got the ball to the Gorman 3-yard line, but Parker Rost’s incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal gave Gorman the ball.
“That stop was huge,” Sanchez said. “But that’s exactly how I thought the game was going to go. That’s Palo Verde. They’re a great high school football team.”
Gorman running back/defensive back Shaquille Powell said that stop is typical of his team’s defense.
“We always talk about our defense being a bend but never break, and that’s what we did,” Powell said. “We did an outstanding job defensively when we had to.”
The Gaels needed only one play to take the momentum.
Powell broke off a 47-yard run on the first play of the drive, and the Gaels drove 97 yards on seven plays, capped by a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Jarrett Solomon.
That gave the Gaels a 7-0 lead, and Palo Verde didn’t threaten again.
“We like to start off fast, and that’s what we were really focusing on,” Powell said of the team’s first drive. “Just trying to crush the other team’s morale.”
A 52-yard punt by Jonathan Maxwell pinned Gorman at its 3 again with 7:59 to go in the second quarter.
But the field position didn’t turn out to be a problem that time either, as the Gaels went 97 yards on 14 plays, chewing up 6 minutes, 11 seconds.
Powell scored on a 7-yard run to give the Gaels a 14-0 lead with 1:48 to go in the half.
Gorman used another long drive to start the second half that put the game out of reach.
The Gaels drove 75 yards on 12 plays on the first drive of the second half, with sophomore Nathan Starks scoring on a 2-yard run to make it 21-0.
Gorman added a 16-yard touchdown pass from Solomon to Ryan Smith with 2:36 to go in the third quarter to make it 28-0.
Palo Verde’s lone score came on a 2-yard run by Lee Griggs, who bounced the play outside and dived just inside the left pylon.
Gorman capped the scoring with a 1-yard run by Starks with 1:22 to play. Starks set up that score with a 45-yard run on which he dragged a defender for the final 10 yards before falling at the 1.
Powell finished with 218 yards on 21 carries to lead Gorman. Solomon completed 14 of 23 passes for 196 yards. He has 34 touchdown passes and just one interception on the season.
Gorman limited Palo Verde to 167 yards of offense. The Panthers, normally a run-first team, managed just 94 yards on the ground and threw 23 passes.