LONG BEACH, Calif. — Bubba Bolden was reaching for anything he could get his hands on. An ankle. A shoelace.
As long as Bolden was able to tackle St. John Bosco’s speedy running back Terrance Beasley before he reached the end zone, that’s all that mattered to Bishop Gorman’s senior safety.
“I didn’t think I was going to get him, but I just went out and threw my arm out there and I got him,” Bolden said. “I felt like that was a big play. If they would have scored right there, I think we kind of would have been down.”
Bolden’s touchdown-saving tackle in the second quarter Friday set the stage for a dominant second half from the Gaels in their 35-20 victory over St. John Bosco (California) at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Long Beach City College.
Gorman (3-0), ranked No. 1 in USA Today’s Super 25 poll, overcame a mistake-filled first half to score the game’s final 28 points. It was the 42nd straight win for the Gaels, who took a major step toward their third consecutive mythical national championship.
“With us, it’s just another one for us,” said Gorman quarterback Tate Martell, who accounted for four touchdowns. “We knew we had to come out here and win this game. Obviously it’s a great win for us, but we’ve got to go back to work on Monday.”
Bosco, ranked No. 7 by USA Today, led 17-7 in the second quarter when Beasley burst up the middle and appeared to be in the clear. But Bolden made a desperation dive inside the 15-yard line and got just enough of Beasley to trip him up at the 9 after a 38-yard gain.
On the next play, Braves quarterback Re-al Mitchell was dropped for a 10-yard loss, and Bosco (2-1) eventually had to settle for a field goal and a 20-7 lead late in the first half.
“It’s big-time,” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “It’s the never-quit mentality. No matter how short the field is or how long the field is, defensively, you’ve got to protect your house and protect your real estate. We preach that all the time. ‘Run to the football. Hey, run after him. If you tackle him on the 5-(yard line), we’ve still got life left to give.’ “
On the ensuing drive, Gorman needed only 42 seconds and three plays to cut Bosco’s lead to 20-14 when Martell threw a 25-yard TD pass to tight end Brevin Jordan with 1:36 remaining in the first half.
And after halftime, the Gaels wore down Bosco, dominating time of possession while outgaining the Braves 240-51 on offense.
St. John Bosco was held to minus-13 yards rushing in the second half after gashing the Gaels on the ground early on.
“We had done really good the last two weeks against the run and I thought we came out real sluggish and we weren’t playing how we normally play,” Sanchez said. “If you look at it, the biggest thing was missed tackles, which we’ve been good at for the last two weeks. So, we had to go back and just say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to wrap up.’
“At the end of the day, it’s all about fundamental football. If you can’t play fundamental football, you’re going to have a rough time, which we did in the first half.”
Martell, who has committed to Ohio State, finished 7-for-16 for 178 yards and three TDs passing. He also rushed for 111 yards, including an 18-yard scoring scamper that gave Gorman a 35-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Amod Cianelli ran for 116 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries for Gorman in place of standout running back Biaggio Ali Walsh, who appeared to aggravate the ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s game late in the first quarter and did not return.
Cianelli plowed in from 2 yards to give Gorman its first lead, 21-20, with 3:02 left in the third. The score capped an 87-yard, 15-play drive — 12 of which were runs — that chewed up nearly seven minutes off the clock.
“Any time you’ve got a kid like (Ali Walsh) who can do the things that he does and he doesn’t get to perform, it’s a big blow,” Sanchez said. “But I’m proud of our guys for the next-man-in mentality. It’s a credit to (Cianelli) and his hard work.”
Dorian Thompson-Robinson finished with three catches for 92 yards, including a 49-yard TD grab late in the first quarter for Gorman’s first points. Thompson-Robinson also hauled in a 44-yard touchdown on perfectly thrown ball by Martell on the first play of the fourth quarter that put the Gaels on top, 28-20.
The Gaels struggled to contain Bosco’s rushing attack while falling behind 14-0 and hurt themselves in the first half with nine penalties for 98 yards.
Mitchell entered the game averaging more than 11 yards per carry and had 59 yards on his first three rushes. But the junior was held to no gain or negative yardage on three of his final four carries and finished with 46 yards on seven attempts.
Beasley ended with 69 yards on 20 carries after rushing for 83 yards in the first half.
“The second half was a real critical half for us,” said Bolden, who had an interception with 3:25 left to seal the victory. “The first half, we didn’t come out that much. I told my defense ‘Pick it up, just keep your heads up and come out with a lot of energy,’ and we did that.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ