Funny. Darwin Rost remembers most the previous season. The closing minutes of a Sunset Regional championship in 2007. The touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining. The bitter taste that a 24-20 loss left in the mouths of his players.
Palo Verde’s football team would stew on that heartbreaking defeat for a year, waiting for another chance to meet Bishop Gorman and right a wrong the Panthers felt they were dealt.
The opportunity came in another regional final and Palo Verde feasted on it, beating the Gaels 50-14.
“We brought a lot of good players back (in 2008), kids who remembered what happened the year before when we lost a game they felt we should have won,” Rost said. “In 2007, (Bishop Gorman) was good, but its stadium wasn’t fully done and the facilities weren’t what they are now. Those things have really helped them get to where they are.
“They do a good job over there and have some really good players.”
Water also makes things wet.
Jack Nicholson took to the acting thing.
The Lakers are in trouble this season.
Rost has coached prep football for 32 years, which means he can play the politically correct understatement card better than most. He’s smart enough to know that when the monster owns a decisive edge in talent, it’s best not to disturb him before sharing the same field.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said.
Palo Verde meets Bishop Gorman at 7 tonight in a regular-season game for the first time since 2005, given this matchup has traditionally been contested in the regional playoffs.
But the era of realignment has arrived and the Panthers and Gaels now find themselves playing for a Southwest League title at Palo Verde, which isn’t exactly like ESPN being in town to show the nation’s top two teams or one program owning goals of winning a mythical national championship.
Bishop Gorman has defeated Palo Verde five straight by scores of 38-28, 28-10, 35-7, 71-28 and 45-7. The gap continues to grow between the two, between the Gaels and everyone from Laughlin to Humboldt County.
There is a scene in the movie, “When the Game Stands Tall,” a true story about the dominant run by Concord De La Salle out of Northern California and its 151-game win streak, where local coaches refuse to play the private Catholic school power, suggesting it recruits players from all over the district and competes by its own rules.
They are charges not foreign to Bishop Gorman and its standing in Nevada, where the Gaels have won five straight state championships and have made playing local teams mere folly since that loss to Palo Verde in 2008; where the roster of Bishop Gorman this season again includes ultra-skilled players at key positions who at one time or another landed on the Gaels campus from all parts of the country.
Consider: Since falling to the Panthers six years ago, Bishop Gorman is 61-0 against teams from Nevada.
It has outscored those teams 3,430-492.
Average margin of victory: 56-8.
Read those numbers again.
It’s all a little ridiculous, no?
“We belong to the Clark County School District, and it makes our league schedule,” Rost said. “It’s not our decision. Right now, (Bishop Gorman) is in our league and we get to play them for a championship.
“No matter what happens, we’ll be in the playoffs next week and have been every year since 2000. We’ll be ready, play the game and see what happens. We’re getting better each week. The kids play hard for us and have bought in. That’s all that matters. It’s Senior Night. It’s a home game. We have a lot of tradition and pride here. We’ll prepare for it the same way we do any other game.”
It’s not another game. He knows that.
It never is when Bishop Gorman stands on the opposite sideline.
You wonder how long the dominance can last when it comes to the Gaels beating the tar out of in-state opponents. You wonder how far beyond 61 straight might reach.
De La Salle didn’t lose a game to anyone for 12 years, and over that time beat teams from California and other states with far greater talent from both public and private schools than anything Bishop Gorman encounters within Nevada.
You could begin a debate on just how Bishop Gorman football has built its dynasty and how those transfers come to wear school colors — they all seem to throw and catch and tackle pretty well — and still be arguing this time next year. There’s nothing new to the narrative here when it comes to how public schools view the Gaels and what lines they feel have been crossed to establish such a massive chasm in ability.
It’s a story older than the tale of Gilgamesh.
Rost prefers instead to focus on a game that will decide a league championship. He is in his 19th season at Palo Verde and is still motivated by doing what most believe is impossible in this particular era of local prep football.
“Our kids have their packets of information on (the Gaels) and have studied the tape and have practiced hard,” Rost said. “I don’t think the moment will be too big for them. There is a good chance we will see (Bishop Gorman) again in the playoffs, which means we would have to beat them twice to achieve our goals this season.
“(Bishop Gorman coach) Tony Sanchez does a good job over there. They really do some nice things.”
Rost is right. He has been doing this a long time.
He knows not only how to coach the game, but also play it.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.