Gaels rule Nevada HS football, but can’t win in Arizona

Bishop Gorman High School, Nevada’s big-schools state champion, took another shot at winning a game in the fifth annual Sollenberger Classic in Flagstaff over the weekend.  But Hamilton High School, Arizona’s defending state champion in 5A-I, sent them back to Las Vegas with another loss.

The 24-17 loss to Hamilton is one of just three the nationally-ranked Gaels have given up over the last three years in compiling a 41-3 mark.  One of the other two came at the hands of Phoenix’s Brophy Prep – in the 2008 Sollenberger Classic – when they were held to just six points.

Actually, the state of Nevada is 0-for-3 in the annual event.  Last year, Centennial High School in Peoria dropped 51 points on then-defending state champion, Reno McQueen High School, to win the fourth Classic game.

Both Hamilton and Bishop Gorman were coming off undefeated seasons in 2009.  But, after this year, you’d think the Gaels would want to find another way to start their season.

Both teams are powerhouses again this year, with the Gaels ranked No. 11 nationally by USA Today and the Huskies pegged at No. 16.  So, this game had national implications for both squads.

Bishop Gorman returned eight starters from last year’s high-powered offense that amassed 798 points enroute to a 15-0 record.  Do the math.  That’s an average of 53 points a game.

But the Huskies held that power offense to just one touchdown in Flagstaff, despite letting the Gaels’ workhorse tailback, Shaquille Powell, gobble up 199 yards on 29 carries.  The rest of the Gaels’ points came on field goals.

Outside of Powell’s performance, the Gaels gained just 24 additional yards.  And the Huskies secondary didn’t give the sensational sophomore quarterback Jarrett Solomon, who passed for 2,100 yards last season, much room to complete passes.  They intercepted two Solomon attempts and broke up others.

Actually, quarterback Kyren Poe finished the game as Hamilton’s leading rusher, carrying 14 times for 57 yards.  And he completed 8-of-13 for another 169 yards.

The highlight reel for the Huskies would have to be the 81-yard punt return for a score by Malcolm Holland in the third quarter, to give his team a 17-9 lead.

But it was one of Poe’s last plays of the night that will probably be remembered long after the final whistle.  With just 1:32 left on the clock, the senior QB punched the ball over the goal line on a 1-yard sneak.

That was after taking the Huskies 80 yards in five plays to set up the winning score, hitting Tanner Clay on a 58-yard pass and then handing the ball to Jai Johnson who picked up 21 more yards.

Another season-opening win is in the books now, and the Huskies have run their win streak to 26 games as they shift their focus to dealing with some very good football teams in the Fiesta Region.

But, in truth, Hamilton may have just played as good a team as they will meet the rest of the way.

The game in Flagstaff tested the defending state champs at the most vulnerable part of the schedule. And they passed the test.

And, while their coach, Steve Belles, wasn’t satisfied with their overall performance, it’s still a win.

A very big win.

(Photo courtesy Bishop Gorman)