By 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.