By W.G. Ramirez

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Bishop Gorman senior running back Russell Booze leads Southern Nevada with 797 yards. Photo: W.G. Ramirez

So here it is in a nutshell after Friday night’s demolition derby at Fertitta Field, the ‘apparent’ top two teams in the nation battled one another and Bishop Gorman simply outclassed St. John Bosco in a 34-31 victory.

On such a stage, in the spotlight, with a chance to officially stamp Bishop Gorman as a national power, the Gaels delivered.

I’ve watched five of their first six games, seeing three in person and two on television. They’ve shown improvement progressively, and last night, everything came together as the Gaels played like a well-oiled machine. And they couldn’t have asked for a better moment. The game was shifted from ESPNU to ESPN – the flagship station of the network – for the world to see.

And just like he’s done week after week, pounding and grinding, digging in as deep as it gets was an offensive stalwart the team has been able to depend on all season.

I’m not speaking about Alize Jones – who epitomizes the description I just gave you, and has never wavered from greatness this season – and I’m not talking about the explicit improvement by quarterback Tate Martell, whose decision-making was on point in Friday’s win.

I was referring to senior Russell Booze, who heading into Saturday night’s full slate of prep football, leads Southern Nevada with 797 yards on 96 attempts, with nine touchdowns. While averaging 8.3 yards per carry, he’s averaging 132.8 yards per game.

I won’t avoid saying that Mojave’s Ty Flanagan should pass Booze on Saturday, when the Rattlers face Faith Lutheran. But I also won’t deny this: now 60 percent through its season, Booze has arguably proved to be Gorman’s offensive MVP.

“He makes big plays, week in and week out,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “Booze is an absolute stud.”

Both Sanchez and Booze praised the offensive line first and foremost, each saying ‘if it weren’t for them,’ while also crediting running backs coach Craig Canfield for his impeccable knack for fine-tuning the backfield.

“That’s what it’s all about: if you can sustain drives and keep the clock running, especially against an explosive offense like (Bosco),” Sanchez said “You want to be able to run the ball methodically, you want to be able to take the time off the clock.”

They’re called blue-collar yards, and Booze has worn his hard hat all season, for each demolition.

While the 797-yard figure seems elementary for a top-notch running back from the valley, let me put it in better perspective, game-by-game: 65, 100, 118, 185, 170 and 159.

He’s improved each game, while literally becoming the go-to guy the entire time. Sure, Jones has been the ‘need a big play, go-to guy,’ because he can go over the middle and create a mismatch most times. But Booze, this kid runs, and runs, and runs.

As a youth, when his practice would end simultaneously with his older brother’s, he would race the running backs from the older team in 50-yard sprints, and win. Handedly. He’s always wanted to run. And he’s always been able to do it well. Whether he’s a scatback searching for a crevice in the line, or straight-on hitting the A-gap, Booze has been someone who can be coached, follows instruction and responds with the right results.

“We just run hard every practice, and we finish every run at every practice, Coach Canfield taught us that,” said Booze, whose nine touchdowns lead the team, as do his 54 points. His nine scores are 28 percent of the team’s total.

For his efforts, Booze has been the game’s leading rusher in five of Gorman’s first six games. He’s been every bit a leader to this team, as he is to his running back unit. He tends to be the calm in what can be a frenetic offense when the tempo runs high. Booze tames his unit’s occasional erratic nature.

But you wouldn’t realize he’s a leader when the headlines are generally focused on someone whose family relation has helped increase the national exposure. I mean, Snoop Dogg was part of the pregame B-roll and ended up in the booth at halftime, and UFC’s upper brass – Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White – was amidst the G Block.

Snoop’s son Cordell Broadus caught four passes for 64 yards, while Fertitta’s son, Nicco, swarmed the secondary and made his presence known on defense. SportsCenter featured Broadus and Jones, plus Bosco quarterback Josh Rosen, but missing was Booze.

After running out of the big-name players who always get publicized, Sportscenter fumbled terribly by ignoring Booze’s 80-yard TD run, most of it untouched, though his yardage did get embedded in a graphic.

Nonetheless, Booze has made a statement as a fixture in this offense.

After six games, 36 percent of his season tally came from the yards combined from each game’s longest run. What that means is 64 percent of his yards came on 92 rushes. When you take those 288 longest-run yards away from his season tally, it leaves you with 509 yards, or, 5.5 yards per those 92 other carries.

Short quick blasts, blue-collar yardage that sustains drives, just as Sanchez and Canfield prescribed.

And Booze is getting the job done, quietly.

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Can Bishop Gorman tight end Alize Jones seize the moment, against USA Today’s top-ranked St. John Bosco? Photo: Barry Wong

 

By W.G. Ramirez

Just watching something like the final home game of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter after an illustrious career, one might wonder what that must feel like.

I did. 

For a moment. Not even the whole thing. Just a moment. 

After a nice buildup to the game, I was somewhat happy for Baltimore Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, who spent a summer in Las Vegas with a competitive collegiate club, Team Vegas. When Jeter stroked a double in the first inning, and later scored to tie the game, for Gausman, it was a moment.

Oddly, after 2,745 career games, his final one in the Boogie Down even made No. 2 a bit jittery – er, Jetery (thank you Mitch Fulfer for that one) – on the one stage you would have expected him to own Thursday night. After all, it was his moment. And man oh man did he seize it.

Tonight, when Bishop Gorman steps on its own field, to face what USA Today claims to be the No. 1 team in the nation – St. John Bosco – both the Gaels and Braves will have their moment. They’ll play amid the lights, beneath Gorman’s mountainous skyline, in front of a nationally televised audience that was switched from ESPNU, to ESPN, the network’s flagship station…

Yeah, moment.

In the same manner Twitter blew up last night with Jeter tweets, the Gaels and Bosco have had their fair share of attention throughout social media, with So. Cal pundits and communicative support systems tweeting about the Braves, and Gorman dominating local headlines this week, in every form of media.

Gorman opened the season as USAT’s No. 1 team. But after close calls during a rugged non-conference schedule, it dropped before climbing back to No. 2. And on Max Preps, the Gaels have been in and around No. 5 on different polls posted there, and this week came in just behind Bosco, as the two were ranked 3rd and 4th. 

Based on USAT’s current poll, this conceivably is for a mythical national championship.

Fact is, as the Review Journal’s David Schoen pointed out this week, Bosco is an eerie carbon copy of Bishop Gorman, in that you have a private high school resurrected to the national spotlight after its program dipped below mediocrity.

Just as Gorman took its lumps to reach the point it has this season, Bosco has followed suit. Earlier this week on local radio, Gaels coach Tony Sanchez put it in perspective how far this program has come.

“The hardest thing about this year is we’ve been everybody’s biggest game,” he told the guys on Gridlock – Mitch Moss, Ed Graney and Seat Williams.  

Usually, the Gaels are getting pumped for their biggest game – which, in essence this is – but this year they’ve become the hunted. Can you imagine, a team ranked higher than the Gaels with this game circled? Last year at this time, Gorman couldn’t wait for then No. 1 Booker T. Washington High to arrive from Miami. Washington won 28-12, the Gaels regrouped and ran roughshod through the state to win their fifth-straight title and now we’re here.

Here, as in Gorman opened the season against five-straight highly regarded foes on a national level; it is 5-0. The Gaels have been involved in a couple of battles – having to come-from-behind, and play some defense when it mattered – but they’ve proven their worth. As opposed to what Public Enemy told us in 1988: “Don’t Believe The Hype!” You better believe the Gaels are all about their hype. 

Bosco is 3-0 after opening its campaign with just as many blowouts, outscoring St. Louis (Honolulu), Norwalk (CA) and Central Catholic (Portland) by a combined final of 153-31. That’s an average final of 51-10. These Braves are looking forward to the postseason much more than the ones in Atlanta. And the Braves are looking at this as a territorial conquest. Knowing that as powerful as Gorman has been, in their eyes when it comes to Nevada and California the Golden State far outweighs the Silver one. There’s a sense of pride here.

A lot at stake, just as there was last night in the Bronx. The Yankees, obviously, felt compelled to win for Jeter and the Orioles are still in search of a homefield edge in the postseason. And just like last night I think we’re in store for a battle in this mega-high school game.

I ran each team’s numbers through a spreadsheet program that I use during the NFL and college football seasons to see predicted outcomes for particular games. With Bosco and Gorman, I have eight games to work with, and after using filters and applying a specified formula based on performance, I did come up with four final scores.

Based on the season, Bosco would win this game, 31-28. After all, the Braves have annihilated their opponents, so after factoring in what Gorman’s defense has given up yards and point wise, it’s not surprising they should score 31. If we were to base this on Bosco’s three games this season, and only Gorman’s last three, the Braves win handedly, 37-23. Considering how the teams perform at home and on the road, I see Bosco winning, 30-23. 

Add those three finals, and you have a composite prediction of Bosco 32, Gorman 25. 

But as ESPN’s Lee Corso would say on Saturday’s Gameday: “Not so fast, my friend!” 

Maybe Bosco is the actual target in this game. Maybe Gorman still has visions of last year’s loss to Washington, at Fertitta Field, and wants to avenge that loss Friday night, knowing what’s at stake on a national level. We’ve seen some impressive things by plenty of local athletes in 2014, so why shouldn’t the Gaels live in their moment, with a pair of standout seniors playing the final home game of their high school careers shining bright to lead the way.

On defense, one of those signature Nicco Fertitta hits to stir up the mood, and possibly cause a turnover. And on offense, how do you not turn to all-American tight end Alize Jones? Jones puts up outstanding numbers, and even when I’ve seen the Gaels play terribly, Jones’ play never waivers. He’s been the go-to guy whenever Sanchez needs something.

So while I see Bosco giving Gorman everything it can handle, and potentially leading 31-28 late, I think it would be fitting to see Fertitta making his play with about three or four minutes left in the game, the Gaels taking over on offense and Jones taking over the game. Filter in some crafty running by Russell Booze and smart decision making by quarterback Tate Martell, and it sets up nicely for a game-winning TD by Jones.

And just like it was Jeter’s in the bottom of the 9th, when he stroked the walk-off single for the Yankees in a 5-4 win, it’s the Gaels’ turn to play for the moment. It’s Gorman’s moment to seize. 

I’ll side with the enchanted football tale: Bishop Gorman 35, St. John’s Bosco 31.

By Jesse Granger

Another week in college football, and another top-four team went down. Early in the year, without much evidence to go off of, things are fluid and a big win can cause a team to soar up the rankings.

College Football Playoff Teams

1. Oregon Ducks (4-0) AP #2, Coaches #4Oregon

Oregon remains at the top, despite having its poorest showing of the season. The Ducks struggled in Pullman, Washington, and escaped Martin Stadium with a 38-31 win. Marcus Mariota was spectacularly efficient, completing more touchdown passes than incompletes. He finished 21-of-25 for 329 yards and five touchdowns, but was sacked a season-high seven times.

The offensive line was bad throughout, allowing all those sacks and limiting Royce Freeman to a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry. That is a troubling sign considering Washington State is not a great defense. This performance would have dropped the Ducks out of No. 1 if any of the other top-four teams did anything of note.
2. Texas A&M Aggies (4-0) AP #6, Coaches #7

TX_A&MThe Aggies beat up on a winless SMU team that has lost its three games by a combined score of 146-12. Not much of a statement, but the Aggies high-flying offense has proven to be consistent. They currently rank second in the nation in scoring at 55.3 points per game, and fourth in passing at 405 yards per game. Maybe more impressive, is the play of the defense. They currently rank eighth in points allowed at 11.8 per game, and have allowed only one touchdown since week one at South Carolina.

Now Texas A&M’s schedule gets real tough, real quick. The Aggies will host Arkansas (3-1) before taking on three straight ranked opponents.
3. Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-0) AP #14, Coaches #16MississippiState

There are three things that are certain in life – Taxes, Death, and losing to LSU in Death Valley at night.

Mississippi State defied one of those on Saturday, going in and beating the Tigers 34-29. It was the statement win of the season, for any team in college football. It was Mississippi State’s first win in Baton Rouge since 1991, and it was in front of 102,321 Tiger’s faithful.

The polls jumped them from unranked to the top 16, but that isn’t high enough. An undefeated team with the most impressive win of the year deserves to be in the top four no matter what logo is on the side of the helmet. The Bulldogs’ front-seven is nasty, and quarterback Dak Prescott has vaulted himself into the Heisman race with is 268 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 105 yards and a score on the ground against LSU.

 

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0) AP #9, Coaches #9

notre_dameNot much to say about the Irish. They had the week off, and therefore didn’t move up or down.

This week they take a trip to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse (2-1), which is one of the softest games on their remaining schedule.
Just Missed The Cut

Baylor Bears (3-0) AP #7, Coaches #6

The Bears’ vaunted offense continues with machine-like precision. They once again lead the nation in scoring, with 59.3 points per game, and are 3rd in passing despite Bryce Petty missing time. The defense has looked great, but anyone’s defense would look great against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. Baylor remains on the outside, for now.
Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) AP #4, Coaches #3

The Sooners escaped Morgantown, West Virginia with a hard-fought 45-33 win over the Mountaineers. The defense did not look good, allowing 513 yards, but the offense came though. Freshman running back Samaje Perine had a career day, carrying the ball 34 times for 242 yard and four touchdowns. Maybe most importantly, Oklahoma showed it can win when Trevor Knight is off.

South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1) AP #13, Coaches #15

South Carolina didn’t look great against Vanderbilt. The game came down to the wire, when the Gamecocks should have walked right through the Commodores. But every week South Carolina’s early-season wins just keep looking better and better.

 

Dropped Out

LSU Tigers – Lost to Mississippi State 34-29

Every week I will highlight the top plays from two of the most highly rated tout sheets – The Gold Sheet and Power Sweep – breaking down the plays for you, and whether or not I agree with their selections. By Thursday night, you can expect to see the top college releases, and will follow in the same manner with NFL selections.

please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this article

THE GOLD SHEET (TGS)

COLORADO -7 vs. Hawaii – TGS notes that Hawai’i is traveling to the mainland without power running back Joey Iosefa, and could run into some trouble against a physical Pac 12 team like the Buffaloes. And even though the Warriors have covered five straight against Pac 12 foes dating back to the 2012 campaign, I would like to think this is a solid spot for Colorado because not only is coach Norm Chow’s bunch coming to the mainland, but moving from tropical weather to high altitude will be hard-pressed for those big island boys. I agree here and will lay the chalk.

ALABAMA -14′ vs. Florida – Awfully big number to lay against the Gators, but TGS points out that Florida needed three overtimes to fend off Kentucky, which had lost 27 straight in the series. With this one being played in Tuscaloosa, I wouldn’t mind laying this number, especially with quarterback Blake Sims throwing against Florida’s highly suspect defensive secondary. Alabama, which has covered six of seven when hosting SEC foes, also has running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, who both will be rested since they’ve had only 16 total carries in the past two games. They can help balance things out when Sims isn’t aiming for wideout Amari Cooper. I also agree here and will lay the points.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS +13′ at Arkansas – It’s very tough to gauge this Northern Illinois team, which has won 17 straight road games, including last week’s visit here in Las Vegas. TGS notes the Huskies have covered 14 of their last 16 during this 17-game run, but I’d be concerned about this team traveling for a third consecutive week. Sure, the first one was in the state of Illinois, but it was still on the road. Then they came to Vegas, and now they’re headed to Fayetteville? I am actually stunned whichever editor contributed to this one picked NIU to win outright, as it could be poised for a beatdown. I’d either lay the points or stay away from this game.

WEST VIRGINIA +7 vs. Oklahoma – TGS notes the lines are beginning to inflate when it comes to the Sooners, and the past two years they’ve been able to pull away for the win and cover against the Mountaineers. This one is in hostile territory, yes. And the Mountaineers do have a power rushing game that could keep Oklahoma’s offense to limited time of possession. But don’t discount The Sooners’ stout defense, which ranks 19th in the nation overall, allowing just 295.3 yards per game. Both have a bye week on deck, so there is no look-ahead to worry about. If I were going to play this one, it would have to be on a two-team teaser, and either side would be safe since I think Oklahoma pulls out the win.
POWER SWEEP (PS)

WISCONSIN -27 vs. Bowling Green – PS notes that even though Bowling Green pulled out a 45-42 win over another Big Ten foe last week, knocking off Indiana, the Falcons did so against a horrendous defense and that quarterback James Knapke won’t have as easy a time this week at Camp Randall, in Madison, against a much better Wisconsin team. The Badgers do a very good job of rotating players, and while they have some big boys up there, they’re also fast and athletic. I don’t know if I’d lay this many points, but I also don’t know if I want to take this number since Wisconsin has won its last six games following a bye week by an average of 34.3 points. I’ll stay away from this one.

COLORADO -7 vs. Hawaii – Well you already know how I feel about this one, based on TGS’ pick, but let’s talk about why PS like the Buffs. According to the tout sheet, Hawaii arrives in Boulder after a close 27-24 win over Northern Iowa in a game the Warriors led 24-10 entering the fourth quarter. On the other hand, Colorado is in after a 38-24 loss to Arizona State. Hence, the Buffaloes could be out to avenge last week’s Pac 12 setback. PS also makes note that Hawaii has given two Pac 12 team all they can handle, but those games were in Honolulu and the Warriors now have to travel to Boulder, where Colorado was 3-0 ATS when laying chalk last season.

ARKANSAS -13′ vs. Northern Illinois – So while TGS likes Northern Illinois to win outright, PS says the Razorbacks are one of its best bets. The sheet points out that NIU is 1-9 all-time versus the SEC, with the win coming against No. 21 Alabama in 2003. The Huskies’ average loss in those 10 games: a rather high 17 points per game – a number that would sure cover the point spread in this game. PS points out that after snapping their 10-game losing streak two weeks back, the Razorbacks ran roughshod over Texas Tech last week – in Lubbock, Texas – with a 49-28 shellacking. To repeat, I’d either stay away from this game, or lay the points with the SEC entry.

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By Jesse Granger

In a week where big-time matchups were few and far between, it’s tough for a team to improve their standing much. While there is little room for upward mobility in a week like this, there is plenty of room to fall in the other direction, as half of my picks from last week found out.
College Football Playoff Teams

1. Oregon Ducks (3-0) AP #2, Coaches #3

Oregon welcomed the Wyoming Cowboys to Autzen Stadium this weekend, and wasted three hours.  The Ducks came out of the gates predictably uninspired.  I mean, who would be pumped up about playing Wyoming? While the Cowboys did enter the game undefeated, they were obviously in over their heads.

The Ducks cruised to a 48-14 win in which the starters watched the fourth quarter like the rest of us.  An unimpressive performance to say the least, but it could have been worse, just look at the rest of last week’s picks.
2. LSU Tigers (3-0) AP #8, Coaches #8

The Tigers from Baton Rouge move up from third to second, but through no doing of their own.

LSU shut out UL Monroe 31-0 for its second straight shutout.  The Tigers have outscored their last two opponents by a combined 87-0, and outgained them 956 yards to 299.  And none of that means anything considering those two opponents should have never been allowed within 100 feet of LSU’s schedule.  The only reason for LSU’s bump up is Georgia’s 38-35 loss to South Carolina.
3. Texas A&M Aggies (3-0) AP #6, Coaches #7

One SEC team falls out of the top four, and another jumps in.  While the Aggies weren’t particularly impressive this Saturday, trampling Rice 38-10, their week one-win over South Carolina just got that much more impressive after the Gamecocks upset win over my previous No. 2 team.

Kenny Hill, or has his parents have trademarked “Kenny Trill”, has been nothing short of spectacular.  The first year starter has completed nearly 70-percent of his passes, while already breaking the 1,000-yard barrier and tossing 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0) AP #9, Coaches #9

You might be asking yourself, “Why is Notre Dame here? Who have they beaten?”  The Fighting Irish have looked impressive against Rice, Michigan and Purdue, none of which are title contenders.  They also aren’t some technical school in rural Montana, which is what half of the country is playing at this point.

Notre Dame has played two straight teams with talented rosters, and looked by far the better team in both contests.  The Irish will have plenty of time to prove themselves, but for now I have them in.
Just Missed The Cut

Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) AP #4, Coaches #4

The Sooners actually impressed me this week. The Tennessee Vols are far from a great team, but they are young with a talented roster and are on the upswing right now, and Oklahoma destroyed them Saturday night.
Baylor Bears (2-0) AP #7, Coaches #6

Baylor’s offense looked like Baylor’s offense against Buffalo.  It wasn’t an impressive win, but there weren’t many this week.  I’m more concerned with Heisman candidate Bryce Petty’s health, which looked like it’s back.

South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1) AP #14, Coaches #16

I will preface by saying this – I don’t think South Carolina has a snow ball’s chance in hell at making the playoff.  The Gamecocks have simply earned this spot by being maybe the only team in all of college football to begin the season with three good opponents.  Back-to-back wins over a solid Eastern Carolina team and rival Georgia are good, but not quite good enough to erase that opening day molly-whopping Texas A&M put on them.  This is likely the highest I will rank them as long as there are undefeated teams out there.
Dropped Out

USC Trojans- Lost 37-31 to Boston College

Georgia Bulldogs- Lost 38-35 to South Carolina