Kenny Sanchez said Bishop Gorman’s football coaching staff had heard some of the hype regarding Tate Martell when the quarterback joined the team during summer workouts, but Sanchez said the staff wasn’t sure what to think.
It didn’t take Martell long to prove the hype was warranted.
The sophomore took over as the starter in the team’s second game and guided the Gaels to a 15-0 record and their sixth consecutive state title. For his efforts, the Review-Journal selected Martell as the state’s Player of the Year to highlight the all-state team. Gorman is ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today.
“The good thing about most of us on the staff was we didn’t know anything about him,” said Sanchez, who took over as the team’s interim coach after his brother, Tony, got the head coaching job at UNLV earlier this month. “When he came in he was No. 3 (on the depth chart). He never griped about it. No one ever said anything about it, and he came into the Servite game and it was pretty much a done deal after that.”
Martell made news when he committed to play at Washington while in seventh grade. But he was still running the scout team as the Gaels prepared to play Servite (Calif.) in the team’s second game of the season.
Martell was summoned off the bench in that game, and he rushed for 114 yards and passed for three touchdowns in leading the Gaels to a 48-27 win. He wouldn’t be on the scout team again.
“He ran all the scout team reps at quarterback because (Servite) had such a unique quarterback themselves,” said Sanchez, who was the team’s defensive coordinator before taking over as interim coach. “And he ended up coming in at the end of the second quarter and he ended up killing it.
“He played so great during the week at practice. He ended up playing just as good against our defense during the week as he did against Servite’s defense.”
Martell completed 124 of 200 passes for 2,537 yards and 40 touchdowns. He was intercepted twice. The 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound Martell also rushed for 433 yards and five scores, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
That ability to run made Martell a dual threat for the Gaels.
“He’s unlike a lot of football players that you come across at the quarterback position, because he’s such a great athlete,” Sanchez said. “He can turn plays that seemed doomed into yards.”
Martell’s ability to extend plays with his feet and still find open receivers separated him from other quarterbacks, especially those his age. Martell always continued to look down field rather than just tuck the ball and run when he faced pressure.
“He’s almost better outside the pocket,” Sanchez said. “When plays break down, he gets more dangerous. He does a great job looking down field and he’s always looking for a receiver. He likes to run, but he won’t run until he has to.”
Martell shredded Reed’s defense in the state title game, completing 9 of 13 passes for 200 yards. Six of those nine completions went for touchdowns as the Gaels won, 70-28.
“When they needed a first down, I felt like it was Tate that was making it happen,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “Great accuracy with his throws and great reads all game long.”
Howren said the sophomore quarterback exuded a quiet leadership on an experienced Gorman team.
“The thing that I thought for Tate, aside from athleticism and leadership that you could see that kid brings to that offense, it was the energy that kid plays with,” Howren said. “He’s a fireplug and he’s leading that offense out there with great energy. You could just see the intensity from Tate.”
And even though the Raiders had played a highly touted junior quarterback from California earlier in the season, Howren said there was no doubt that Martell was the best they saw.
“Tate by far is one of the most athletic quarterbacks,” Howren said. “And just what you want out of a quarterback. Just great confidence, great leadership skills. You can just feel it when he’s out there. The guy has total command of the game.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at email@example.com or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.