Midway through Bishop Gorman’s (Las Vegas, Nev.) second game of the season, coach Brent Browner realized one of his sophomores had not adjusted to the personnel switch. He ran the plays backward, reading them for a different personnel group. The Gaels got it fixed. But even if they hadn’t, it likely wouldn’t have mattered, at least in that individual game.
Bishop Gorman blew out Long Beach Poly (Calif.) 60-15 at the Nike Kickoff Classic at the Nike headquarters in Portland, Ore., that day. And that wasn’t some scrub opponent, either — Long Beach Poly is now 7-1 and ranked as a top 50 team in the nation on MaxPrep’s expanded rankings.
Much of that outcome showed how dominant Bishop Gorman could be, with the expectations matching that distinction from the sidelines and in the locker room.
“We put a ton on these kids,” Browner said after the game. “These kids are doing college-level stuff — we’re switching personnel, we’re doing zone — the amount of stuff that we do, even to me, is very impressive.”
It’s a demanding program, but the players understand the concepts.
The Gaels have beaten a handful of Super 25 teams since then, including Corner Canyon (Draper, Utah) by a score of 63-42, former top 10 Miami Central (Fla.) 39-35, and Centennial (Corona, Calif.) 56-28. Through nine games, they are outscoring opponents by an average margin of about 47-19.
The regular season success has thus far culminated with some help from another powerhouse, as then-No. 9 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) beat former No. 1 team Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) last weekend to give the final push for Bishop Gorman to ascend to the top of the Super 25.
It marked the end of an impressive run.
Since Bishop Gorman won three straight national championships from 2014-16, those two California teams have dominated the Super 25 rankings. USA TODAY High School Sports has named Mater Dei the national champion four times and St. John Bosco twice in the seven seasons since 2017. The only outlier was in 2020 when the eight-win IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) earned the recognition. (Due to COVID restrictions at the time, not all states allowed competition in high school sports such as football.)
After that IMG championship, Mater Dei or St. John Bosco have been ranked No. 1 on the Super 25 weekly.
Until now, with the Gaels opening up at No. 1 this week.
Bishop Gorman isn’t resting its laurels by any means at pole position. The team watched St. John Bosco shut out Mater Dei together on a bus ride, and Browner reminded the group not to put stock into the No. 1 ranking. That it couldn’t change their primary focus of winning the Nevada state championship, as he conveyed to the Las Vegas Sun.
Much of the national championship is out of an individual team’s control. Last year, the Gaels were in consideration at the end of the season as they outscored opponents 857-92 and ran to the state championship in blowout fashion. A three-point early-season loss to Mater Dei spoiled their chances for national recognition, though, and they finished No. 2 behind one-loss St. John Bosco.
This year, they’re in the driver’s seat, aiming to end the regular season with a 10-0 record this Friday before the playoffs start and the real test begins.
“There’s a belief in themselves that they’ve culminated not just because of what happened last year but because of all the work they put in on the offseason,” Browner said. “You don’t expect to win, but you expect to do what you’ve been practicing. If you do what you’ve been practicing, you should be successful.”
Near the beginning of the season, Browner said that experience from last year helped younger players adjust. This has been true for the receiving core, for instance, which lost leaders like Trech Kekahuna and Zachariah Branch. Senior Audric Harris, who last year appeared in just two games and had four receptions, according to MaxPreps, has become the favorite of quarterback Micah Alejado, and has a team-high 834 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. Fellow receiver Elijah Lofton, who was a top-three receiver last year and rushed for seven touchdowns, is up to 15 total touchdowns this year.
Alejado is as electric as last year, eclipsing 2,000 passing yards with a 77.5% completion rate while throwing 26 touchdowns to zero interceptions through nine games.
The defense relies on extremely young players for key roles, with sophomore Prince Williams leading the team with 70 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks and freshman Tamatoa Gaoteote’s 64 tackles.
This isn’t a crowning of Bishop Gorman. Their success must continue if they are to hold off other undefeated foes like No. 2 Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood, Fla.), No. 3 Duncanville (Texas) or No. 5 IMG Academy. Browning, for his part, recognizes that.
“We don’t stop coaching. It doesn’t matter what the score is, we’re not worried about any of that stuff, every play is the play,” Browning said. “We do want to play good football. We want to make sure everybody that’s worked since January gets a chance to show for their families and their fans what they can do on this football field. We just keep that simple goal.”
That was the answer to a question about keeping composure and focus during blowout victories. It’s also applicable to this goal of winning the state championship. They cannot get complacent. Since that August game and interview, that simple goal has not changed.