LAS VEGAS -- The first one stunned Bishop Gorman. The last 10 seemingly broke the will of a perennial national power.
Mountain Pointe scored on its first offensive touch to set the tone in the 8th annual Barry Sollenberger Classic, but reality started to settle in when the Pride ran almost exclusively (1 pass attempt) in the second half to wear down the Gaels.
It led to an impressive 28-21 win by the Pride on Gorman’s home turf, Fertitta Field, in front of a national television audience.
Gorman came in ranked No. 18 by Rivals.com and No. 25 by MaxPreps. There’s no telling what the win means for the Pride, which was ranked No. 19 by Rivals, nationally going forward.
But it is clear the Pride (1-0) loves to move forward, chunks at a time, when the game is in the final quarter and they have a lead.
While they opened the game with speedster Paul Lucas scoring on a 48-yarder, the demonstration of physical dominance by the offensive line and starting running back Wesley Payne was a true indicator Mountain Pointe’s ideal game plan:
Have a lead late, let the linemen fire off the ball, drain the clock and head back to Arizona with a win that not only represented the state well, but let that very same group of proud football programs know that Mountain Pointe is still very much a state title contender.
“In the first half they thought we were going to run wide and throw a little, but we had to give them a little Southern hospitality and show them we could pick up the tough yards by running right at them,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said.
It really didn’t matter if Mountain Pointe ran inside or out, as the Pride totaled 330 yards on 40 carries. Lucas, who added a second touchdown to go up 21-7 with 8:10 left in the third quarter, finished with eight carries for 144 yards and Payne had 21 for 173 yards, including 90 in the fourth quarter.
“Hats off to Mountain Pointe, they took it to us,” Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “We got some turnovers and couldn’t take advantage of the ones we forced. They did a great job controlling the ball at the end.”
The Pride offense should have done even more damage but two red zone turnovers (four total) kept them from really serving notice with a rout.
Instead, Gorman (0-1) showed why it is so highly touted each season by coming up with big plays, although the Gaels also had some key miscues (a wide open receiver dropped an almost certain TD), to keep it close.
Gorman tied it 7-7 in the second quarter on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that saw senior quarterback Randall Cunningham Jr. make plays with his feet, then Daniel Stewart returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score after the Pride pushed the lead to 28-21 in the fourth.
But the Gaels were never in position to tie it late because the Pride defense, which forced a turnover on downs when Gorman went for it on 4th-and-inches from the Mountain Pointe 11 on a possession that started on the 20 after the Pride fumbled the second half kickoff, turned in an impressive performance.
“They were being very physical,” Stewart said. “We knew they were, but you really can’t prepare for that.”
The Pride entered the game against Gorman determined to not be used by the Gaels as a stepping stone to a national championship.
The Nevada state championship, which it has won four consecutive years, is just another game for Gorman as the Gaels eyed a national championship. Their first six games are against national opponents, meaning the loss to start the year probably ends any shot for a national title.
The pressure was fully on the Gorman, while Pride did their own thing. and it is pretty clear these days that’s usually enough.
“Being physical is always Mountain Pointe football,” senior guard Natrell Curtis said. “They put in the (Rivals.com preseason) article that we weren’t physical. Our coaches make us physical and (Gorman) knows it now, too.”
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