That’s been a key word this season as high school football fans anxiously have awaited the eventual matchup between Sunset Region powers Bishop Gorman and Palo Verde.
The wait is over.
Palo Verde (10-1) plays at Gorman (11-0) at 7 tonight in the Sunset Region semifinals.
“It’s definitely going to be a packed house,” Palo Verde senior Tyrone Blake said. “Their fans are committed to them just as much as our fans are. This is basically the biggest game of the year. It can’t get no better than this.”
Even first-year Gorman coach Tony Sanchez knows how big this game is.
“It’s something a lot of people in the community and the kids have talked about from the very beginning, and now here we are,” Sanchez said. “So it’s exciting. You’re really going to see some good Nevada high school football on Friday night.”
No team in the state has been more dominant this season than Gorman. The Gaels have outscored opponents 605-58, winning all 11 games by 31 or more points. Gorman has scored 50 or more in eight games, including its past six.
But the Gaels never were challenged in the Southwest League and now face a Palo Verde team that beat them 50-14 in last year’s Sunset Region title game.
“They kind of put it on us last year, so we’re excited,” Gorman offensive lineman Geoffrey Gibson said. “We’re out here working hard. We’re excited about this game.”
Palo Verde has been no slouch, either. The Panthers average 43.7 points and have topped 50 points four times. The Panthers have a trio of big-play running backs in Brandon Wright (1,144 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns), Chappell Thomas (1,034 yards, 15 TDs) and Blake (877 yards, 14 TDs).
Palo Verde has run the ball on 88.5 percent of its plays this season.
“They’re about as committed to the run as any football team you’ll ever see,” Sanchez said. “So we’ve got to do a great job of not giving up the big play. From what I’ve seen on film, the majority of their points come on big plays.”
Of Palo Verde’s 60 offensive TDs, 29 have come on plays of 20 or more yards. The Panthers also have returned two kickoffs and four punts for scores.
Gorman has made plenty of big plays on the ground this season, as well. The Gaels also feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Victor Belen (1,131 yards, 22 TDs) and Shaquille Powell (1,096 yards, 22 TDs). The duo has scored on 24.1 percent of their carries.
“We have different philosophies, but we’re very similar football teams,” Sanchez said. “We have two great runners. They actually have three. They’re more of a three-headed monster. But the third head for us is our quarterback.”
Gaels freshman quarterback Jarrett Solomon has completed 58 percent of his passes this season for 1,442 yards and 15 TDs. He’s been intercepted four times.
Sanchez said he’s not worried about relying on the freshman in such a big game.
“Maybe he hasn’t played a game as big as this … but our job as coaches is to make sure we don’t ask Jarrett to go out and win the game for us,” Sanchez said. “With the seniors we have and all this talent we have, we need to do a great job of taking the pressure off him.”