Tate Martell stood in the pocket untroubled and launched picturesque passes to his Bishop Gorman wide receivers like it was a 7-on-7 passing tournament in late June, instead of the biggest game of the season.
The quarterback threw only nine passes during the Division I state football final Saturday, but each completion looked better than the previous one.
After the Gaels crushed Liberty 62-21 at Sam Boyd Stadium for their seventh consecutive state title, Martell was reluctant to take credit for his 7-for-9 passing performance for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
The star quarterback turned the spotlight to the big guys in the trenches. The unit of Julio Garcia II, Jaron Caldwell, Sione Lasike, Adrian Dupuis and Amir Johnson powered Gorman’s ferocious running attack and passing game all season.
“I’ve told every reporter this … I’ve told everybody that our offensive line is underrated,” Martell said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous how underrated this line is.”
Bishop Gorman (15-0) is led by a cast of playmakers that is destined to play on Saturdays for the nation’s biggest college programs. But Garcia and Caldwell, the senior tackles who anchor the Gaels’ stout offensive front, are staying local. Right tackle Garcia and left tackle Caldwell will suit up for their former coach, Tony Sanchez, at UNLV.
Playing for a Division I program is an accomplishment, but Martell said he thinks his two linemen deserved more offers. “They should have offers from Pac-12 schools,” Martell said. “Every single lineman should have an offer. They open holes a freaking train could go through.”
Junior running back Biaggio Ali Walsh rushed for a season-high 255 yards on 21 attempts thanks to the gaping holes created by the line. Ali Walsh is a physical back who can churn out extra yards after crossing the trenches. He didn’t need to use a stiff arm or truck a Liberty defender on Saturday. Ali Walsh rushed for three touchdowns untouched on scampers of 41, 26 and 58 yards.
In total, the Gaels’ offensive line paved the way for six rushing touchdowns, including one by defensive lineman Haskell Garrett.
On Jonathan Shumaker’s 2-yard rushing score, the line moved the Liberty defensive front to the right side, and the backup running back took the ball to the left with ease to expand Bishop Gorman’s lead to 48-14 in the third quarter.
“We would like to take a little bit of credit for Biaggio’s big game,” Garcia said, “but that guy can burst through the smallest holes.”
Garcia is a three-year starter and team captain, and plans to major in hotel management at UNLV. Caldwell, a two-year starter, said this year’s state title is a little more special than last season’s.
“I feel a lot more accomplished,” Caldwell said. “I had to step up and be a leader. I had to help lead the way. I did a lot more to contribute to this win.”
With center Lasike, Garcia and Caldwell moving on, it’s up to right guard Dupuis and left guard Johnson to carry the torch for next year’s unit.
“They (seniors) really helped us a lot,” Dupuis said. “If I make mistakes, I knew it would be OK because they would help me through them and learn. I could always look up to Julio because we were on the right side together.
“I want to be the same type of leader next year.”
— Contact reporter Gilbert Manzano at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him: @gmanzano24