Bishop Gorman football coach Kenny Sanchez loves his platoon of running backs, and with good reason.
The Gaels have averaged 9.3 yards per carry this season, led by junior Biaggio Ali Walsh, who is No. 1 among area Division I players with 1,216 rushing yards.
But the coach knows that backfield wouldn’t be nearly as imposing if not for the group toiling in anonymity in front of them.
“Running backs always get the attention for it,” Sanchez said. “And we’ve got some good backs, who when they get in the open field, they can go. They’re gone. Like, Biaggio’s fast. But in order to get there, you’ve got to have some big boys up front that can open up the holes. Our (offensive) line has been pretty solid this year. Really solid.”
Gorman’s offensive line will face a tough test today when the Gaels (8-0) host Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) at 7 p.m. The Ironmen (4-2) have allowed just 74 points this season, and no team has scored more than 21 against them.
“Their (defensive) line is really good, probably the best (defensive) line we’ve seen all year,” said 6-foot-4-inch, 309-pound senior tackle Jaron Caldwell. “They’re definitely well-leveraged, probably the most powerful (defensive) line I’ve ever seen.”
The Gaels, ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, aren’t as big up front as they have been in recent years, but they still have plenty of size, led by bookend tackles Caldwell and Julio Garcia (6-3, 310), who both have committed to UNLV.
Center Sione Lasike (6-0, 285) also started for part of last season, and Sanchez said junior guards Adrian Dupuis (5-11, 264) and Amir Johnson (6-0, 222) have fit right in.
“This is their first year coming up from (junior varsity), and they just went right in and looked great,” Sanchez said. “And you’ve got Caldwell and Julio, our seasoned veterans, and they’re our two main hogs that control the line of scrimmage. We usually just follow them when we get in a little bit of trouble, and they kind of lead the way.”
Gorman has averaged 287.1 yards on the ground, and Ali Walsh has averaged 11.7 yards per rush. Backup Jonathan Shumaker (404 rushing yards, six TDs) and quarterback Tate Martell (321 rushing yards, five TDs) also are running threats.
“As a line, without us I feel like there wouldn’t be a whole bunch of rushing yards for Biaggio,” Dupuis said. “We’re really proud, because we just want to do what’s best for the team and help out the team as much as we can.”
Don Bosco is the last out-of-state test on the schedule for the Gaels, who are looking to win a second straight mythical national title.
Gorman opened the season with five consecutive wins over out-of-state opponents. Since then, the Gaels have dominated in three Southwest League wins, outscoring their opponents 202-21.
“We’re definitely pretty excited,” Caldwell said. “Lately we’ve been playing in-state competition. It’s good competition still, but it’s not the caliber that we’re used to, so we’re definitely all excited to get back out there and compete with someone who’s really good.”
And as often happens in high school football, Sanchez expects the game to be won in the trenches.
“It really is going to be who can control the line of scrimmage,” Sanchez said. “They’ve got a great defensive line; we’ve got a good offensive line. There’s going to be some give and take. We’re going to win some, they’re going to lose some. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who makes more mistakes than the other person, and who can dig deep and finish the game off.”
And the coach expects his team to be tested in the fourth quarter for the first time in quite awhile. The Gaels have won their past six games by 28 or more points.
“This game’s going to be neck-and-neck in the fourth quarter,” Sanchez said. “It’s not going to be any kind of blowout or anything like that.”
— Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.