Posts Tagged ‘Prep Football’

alizejones_bg

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.

Advertisements
CunninghamYYYYY

Bishop Gorman QB Randall Cunningham Jr.
Photo Credit: Barry Wong

By W.G. Ramirez

When you grow up in Las Vegas, you’re bred under one rule when it comes to high school loyalty: if you don’t attend Bishop Gorman High School, you despise the Gaels.

I didn’t attend Bishop Gorman High School.

That being said, I like Randall Cunningham Jr.

If the name sounds familiar, he is indeed the son of the former UNLV great and NFL all-pro with the same name and is indeed someone who is emerging on his own accord. Junior, a senior this season, is the starting quarterback for the Gaels and opened the 2013 campaign taking his lumps in a 28-21 loss to Phoenix’s Mountain Pointe High School.

The game was televised in front of a national audience on Fox Sports 1, introducing America to one of the finest athletes in the nation – both on the gridiron and in track and field. And though the nationally ranked Gaels lost, Cunningham Jr. didn’t disappoint the home crowd and kept his team in the game by settling in and taking control of the offense midway through the second quarter.

The 6-foot-5, 180-pounder rushed for 103 yards and completed 5 of 12 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

“Once the first quarter and the second quarter started moving along, I felt like I definitely picked it up and was able to do my best to lead the team,” he said. “The first start is definitely going to be a little bit nervous. I went in there and my first two passes could have been much better. I feel like I was still getting a little bit of the nerves out.”

And while he bears an uncanny, on-field resemblance to his father on the gridiron, he was also named last year’s Gatorade Nevada Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year after culminating his junior season by clearing a state-record 7 feet, 3 1/4 inches to win the Division I state high jump title. It was his best jump of the season, and ranked No. 1 in the nation according to athletic.net.

“He’s way better than I was when I was a kid,” Cunningham Sr. said during a private interview before his son’s season-opening game. “He’s faster than I was, he’s bigger than I was, he’s smarter, he has more knowledge of the game than most people could even realize because I taught him so much and he’s been around the NFL.

“He’s well advanced, and a lot of people would not know that about him.”

Listening to the elder Cunningham speak, it’s evident the pride he’s had in watching his son mature. And while it’d be easy to ride the coattails of being the son of one of the most successful quarterbacks to play the game professionally, the former Philadelphia Eagle and Minnesota Viking said his son takes it in stride, receives advice graciously and shines in his own light.

“He’s compared to me, but he takes the pressure and is like ‘that’s my dad and I’m honored to have a dad who was successful that people can compare to me.'” Cunningham Sr. said. “He looks at me and he respects what I say to him. Even in the times when he might not want to hear what I have to say, when it’s kind of going against the grain, he still receives.”

Cunningham Jr. has numerous college offers, and he’s not shy about the fact he’s looking for a four-year deal that will allow him to play football in the fall, high jump in the spring and eventually get him to where his father was a human highlight reel – the NFL.

Included in the dozen or so colleges who are coveting Cunningham are Baylor, LSU, Arizona State, UCLA and Kansas State.

“I think about the Draft, I think about the 2016 Olympics – both are something I’ve dreamed about,” Cunningham Jr. said. “I would like to do both as long as I can and whichever one can take me farther, I’ll make the decision.”

Ultimately, both Cunningham men say Faith will steer junior in the right direction.

“He’s just really trying to enjoy himself, putting God number one,” said Cunningham Sr., an ordained minister the past 9 1/2 years and pastor at his church, Remnant Ministries. “God has blessed him from above.”

Said Junior: “I like to start my day out and end my day out with being able to talk to God and pray. Faith is definitely the number one thing in my life.”

Yeah, by Vegas rules, I’m not supposed to like Bishop Gorman.

But as a sports journalist, a father and a man of Faith, I like, respect and appreciate Randall Cunningham Jr.