Mountain Pointe arrived onto Bishop Gorman’s radar after beating state power Hamilton in Week 1 of last season. The Pride will look to take down Nevada’s best team on Friday at the Sollenberger Classic.
Tony Sanchez knows how hard it is to prepare for and pull off a win over Arizona power Hamilton.
He tried it and came up short in the 2010 Sollenberger Classic as the Huskies won 24-17 at Northern Arizona’s Walkup Skydome.
It’s one of the reasons Sanchez, the architect of national power Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), knew his coaching staff and players had a lot of work to do when it was announced they’d open the season against Mountain Pointe in this year’s Sollenberger on Friday.
After all, the Pride set the tone for their 2012 season with a win over Hamilton in Week 1.
“When someone beats Hamilton it gets your attention,” Sanchez said. “I knew of Mountain Pointe because I’ve had a cousin who went there years ago, and I knew they did a nice job there, but I really started following after that win last year.”
Sanchez has gotten to know the Pride very well since then in preparation for the Sollenberger, which will be played at Bishop Gorman’s Fertitta Field and also include a game between Salpointe Catholic (Tucson) and Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) on Saturday.
It started with the announcement of the Sollenberger matchup, continued with a visit from the Mountain Pointe coaching staff in February and got really serious when the Bishop Gorman coaching staff started watching game film.
“They have some dynamic players that I could rattle off 10 deep, 3 (Trey Lauer), 2 (Jalen Brown), 75 (Natrell Curtis),” Sanchez said. “They are well coached. Coach (Norris) Vaughan is a straight-shooter and they are physical. I imagine when you get done playing them you know it.”
The same can, and has been, said about the Gaels.
Bishop Gorman, a private Catholic school, has been a force since Sanchez took over prior to the 2009 season after remaking California High in San Ramon, Calif., as the team went 35-21 from 2004-2008 at a program that was 83-200-10 in its history before he took over.
Over the past four seasons he has led Gorman to a record of 56-4 and four consecutive top 25 national rankings, including two consecutive top 10 rankings, as Gorman won four consecutive state championships (2009-2012) for the first time in school history.
“They are as good as any team we’ve faced,” Vaughan said. “They do a good job of finding the best (opponents) and playing them anywhere and anytime.”
The Gaels are the team in Nevada, winning the state title game, 63-10, last year against Liberty, so Sanchez brought the philosophy he started at California of seeking out the best competition possible.
“When I was at California we made the sectional finals against De La Salle and lost 37-0,” he said. “I felt responsible for not getting the boys prepared for that type of game. The next year went up to play Bellevue, Wash., and toughened up our schedule. We got back to the sectional finals and had a shot to beat De La Salle (in a 21-14 loss).
“In order to step up in a big game you need to be challenged week in and week out. With where we are, close to Los Angeles, the Sollenberger every year, I’d be crazy if I didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Gaels get plenty of advantages when it comes to their facilities, which have been compared to some Division I colleges. There is a banquet hall, Jacuzzi tubs, seven different uniform combinations, and a state-of-the-art weight training facility.
Oh, and their players are also pretty good.
“We feel like this will be the best we’ve been offensive line-wise with the five guys and tight end we have coming back,” Sanchez said. “We have a dynamic quarterback (Randall Cunnigham Jr.) but it will be his first start and our running back Daniel Stewart had the best spring out of anyone. Defensively, we are building around our linebackers and we think it can be a very good unit.
“We will see how it all shakes out on Aug. 23.”
The Gaels, like Mountain Pointe, won’t play a scrimmage before their first game, but unlike the Pride, Bishop Gorman had a chance to go full contact at a camp at Sacramento State in June.
“That’s a real advantage,” Vaughan said. “I’d give up spring ball if we could use pads like (Nevada) can. I won’t know what some of my players can do in pads until that game. We can’t do what they do.”
The Pride, coming off a great run to the Division I title game in 2012, find out exactly what Bishop Gorman can do just over three weeks from now at Fertitta Field.
“It will be phenomenal, although we are going to do some things differently,” Sanchez said. “We don’t want to turn it into a Gorman home game. We will keep some of the production like the pregame video and smoke behind, but it is still one of the best high school football stadiums in the country. It will be raucous and loud. The people of Phoenix who come to the game will be in for a great show.”
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-272-2449.