LAS VEGAS -- Considering the Servite football team has won the last two CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division championships and entered the game at No. 1 in the state and No. 13 in the POWERADE FAB 50, it’s easy to say that Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) coming up with a 31-28 win Friday ranks as probably the biggest win ever by a Nevada high school football team over one from California.
It's true the Gaels (6-1) were No. 10 in the FAB 50 and for the last three years have played at a level equal to many top teams nationally, but they'd yet to beat a top California foe. In fact, beginning with the first game between the two states -- believed to be a 70-0 win in 1896 by Belmont Academy (Belmont, Calif.) over the University of Nevada -- there's never been a California team as highly regarded as Servite that has lost to a Nevada opponent.
Junior Klein Fielden snuck through a 39-yard field goal with 1:03 left to give Bishop Gorman a 31-28 lead. Servite (4-1) tried to respond, but a dropped lateral cost the Friars 10 yards on their second play and they couldn’t recover. A desperation fourth-down pass by quarterback Cody Pittman was intercepted with 18 seconds left by the Gaels' Nathan Starks to seal the triumph.
“Being from California myself I know what type of football is played by a team like Servite so for us just to be close speaks volumes about the way we play,” said Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez. “At the end of the day, this was a game that could have gone either way.”
Servite tied the score 28-28 on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run by junior Manaitavini Pauu, who had no carries in the first half but surged to a team-best 83 yards in 12 carries in the second half. The Friars also had a promising drive later in the quarter that began on their own 2-yard line, but stalled at midfield. Bishop Gorman then went on its drive to Fielden’s field goal on its ensuing series.
“We’ll learn a lot from this game,” said Servite coach Troy Thomas. “We made some mistakes and I’m just glad it was in the preseason.
“We hadn’t been in a game like this yet and I was glad to see how much we battled back. They just made some big plays and we knew they were a big play team.”
In the first half, Bishop Gorman scored the first two times it touched ball and scored twice within 1:02 at the end of the second quarter. The only problem was that Servite ran off 20 straight points of its own to account for a 28-20 score.
Junior Justin Sweet grabbed the opening kickoff at his own 11-yard line and powered through some tacklers for an 89-yard touchdown to give the Gaels some early momentum. They added a 6-yard scoring run by Shaq Powell, who led Bishop Gorman with 21 carries for 123 yards, on their first series a few minutes later.
Servite found its first success on the team’s second series with an eight-play, 83-yard drive that culminated with a two-yard scoring plunge by Domain Mora.
A fumble, a fourth-down stop and an interception then helped the Friars take the lead. They didn’t cash in on two trips inside the 10-yard line, however, and had to settle for 35-yard and 28-yard field goals by Connor Beavans. Servite did take a 20-14 lead with 7:01 left in the second quarter on a seven-yard run by Mora.
Bishop Gorman’s two quick-strike scores just before the half came on touchdown passes of 30 yards by Jarrett Solomon to Ryan Smith and then 34 yards by Solomon to Powell. Before those two throws, Solomon was only 2-of-6 for 11 yards with one interception. Powell also helped set up the second touchdown pass by coming up with an interception on defense.
What the win means for Bishop Gorman: Besides the California vs. Nevada historical implications, the Gaels will maintain their top 10 ranking in the FAB 50 and may now cruise to the final No. 1 ranking for the West Region. How they finish in the national rankings likely depends on how No. 4 Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) does in its state playoffs. Armwood’s 20-17 victory in August is Bishop Gorman’s only loss. The rest of the team’s games will be against Nevada competition and so far the Gaels have outscored their in-state foes 244-13.
What the loss means for Servite: Actually, other than another California team taking a loss to a top team from another state, the Friars could still be No. 1 in many Southern California rankings next week. The tricky aspect of their game against Bishop Gorman is that while it was important, the No. 1 goals for Servite are to win the Trinity League (regarded this year as the best in California) and then win another CIF Southern Section title. Playing in a game like this might turn out to help them achieve those goals.