Bishop Gorman football coach Kenny Sanchez has very special intentions for the game ball from the Gaels’ 50th consecutive win — a 56-7 road beatdown of previously unbeaten Sierra Vista.
Sanchez told his players after the game Friday that he’s delivering the ball to his brother Joey, who leaves for a 400-day tour in Iraq next week.
They seemed to be quite alright with his decision.
Gorman scored on all eight of its offensive possessions and stifled the Mountain Lions’ offense to clinch the Southwest League title.
Running back and reigning state Player of the Year Biaggio Ali Walsh made the most of his eight carries, finishing with 118 yards and three first-half touchdowns. Gaels quarterback Tate Martell threw for 162 yards and four scores to three different receivers.
Sanchez reminded his players after the game that the regular season is over and playoffs start next week. But he did make sure to take a second to celebrate the victory.
“I’m a big kid at heart and I’m a massive competitor. Every time you’re playing for a championship, I don’t care if it’s table tennis or whatever, wins are hard to come by,” Sanchez said. “There were only two teams undefeated in the state in (Class) 4A, it was us and them. This was one of our goals; to win a league title … We’ve knocked that down.”
Walsh scored two first-quarter touchdowns and tacked on a third after Martell’s first touchdown pass — a 30-yard catch and run by tight end Brevin Jordan.
Martell’s second touchdown pass — a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Austin Arnold — jump-started running time midway through the second quarter.
Gorman’s defense was dominant as usual. Defensive linemen and linebackers swarmed ball carriers and relentlessly pressured quarterback Oscar Aliaga, who had almost all eight of his completions against the Gaels’ reserves. He finished 8 of 17 passing for 127 yards.
“(They play) smash-mouth football. They wanted to run the ball,” Gorman defensive tackle Haskell Garrett said. “That was our main thing, just stopping the run.”
It worked, as the Mountain Lions finished with 18 carries for minus-23 yards.
Martell tacked on a touchdown pass late in the second quarter and threw his fourth and final touchdown midway through the third.
Aliaga connected with KaKai Faatigilia for a 35-yard touchdown to prevent a shutout, and Sierra Vista coach John Foss said he thinks the score helped the Mountain Lions build a little momentum for next week’s playoffs.
“We’re proud that our kids never quit. They hung together through some tough times,” Foss said. “I think we’ll be able to rally the kids next week and get a good performance.”
Sanchez, of course, expects the same thing from the Gaels.
“We’re still pretty fresh. We’re still pretty sharp,” Sanchez said. “It looks like we’re doing what we need to do to continue to get better. We’re right where we need to be.”