LAS VEGAS - Tony Sanchez can try all he wants, but it is going to be hard to live up to his words.
The Bishop Gorman coach and the Gaels athletic department have agreed to tone back the in-game atmosphere so it is isn’t a full-scale home game in the Sollenberger Classic.
Good luck with that.
With the amount of talent on the field, the hype surrounding the game, and the presence of national television cameras, Fertitta Field is going to be in a frenzy by the time the 7:07 p.m. kickoff is put in the air.
The team that stays the course the best just might get the advantage.
“We need to treat it like a normal game, but it is going to be hard,” Mountain Pointe senior linebacker/running back Trey Lauer said. “We didn’t do a good job of that in the state game and it got us. This is going to be fun and as long as we fly to the ball and play physical Mountain Pointe football we will be OK.”
The Pride hasn’t had this kind of exposure while Bishop Gorman seems to play a nationally ranked team every week when the four-time, big-school Nevada champions play outside their region.
“We want to play the best of the best and it starts with Mountain Pointe this year,” Sanchez said. “Our guys know to expect everyone’s best shot because we seem to be the biggest game on the schedule for most of our opponents. It means we can’t have any type of letdown or we are going to be in trouble.”
First games are always tricky as coaches attempt to get a feel for just what type of team they have. Neither team has had a scrimmage this year, so it could get sloppy. A rhythm to the offense against the scout defense is a little different than getting it going against a nationally-ranked opponent.
“We don’t know what we have yet,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “We think the pieces are in place, but there have been some injuries that kept our guys out. Bishop Gorman is big and have athletes every where.
“We have to be ready from the start and get through that first wave of adrenaline and play our game.”
Bishop Gorman is making its fourth appearance in the Sollenberger and hasn’t really had its way with their Arizona opponents. The Gaels are 1-2 after losing in 2008 to Brophy Prep, 16-6; losing to Hamilton in 2010, 24-17, and prevailed over Chaparral, 42-22, in 2011.
“It’s a great event and one of the things I like about it is that I still talk to (Hamilton’s) Steve Belles and (former Chaparral coach) Charlie Ragle. I think it will be the same way with Norris Vaughan.”
The Gaels are big up front, led by Nick Gates (6-foot-5, 295 pounds) and Zack Singer (6-4, 300), with talent to burn at the skills positions. First-year starter Randall Cunningham Jr. is tall and lean in the pocket and isn’t expected to show any rust after sitting behind four-year starter Anu Solomon, who is at Arizona.
The running game took a hit when last year’s leading rusher Nathan Starks was dismissed from the team, but senior Daniel Stewart is ready to step in.
“He might have had the best spring/summer out of everyone we have,” Sanchez said.
The Pride counters with a physical presence on defense led by linebacker Wesley Payne, while defensive backs Jalen Brown and Dominique Fenstermacher are two of the top talents in the state.
Mountain Pointe is stacked offensively as long as the offensive line, which returns three starters, can hold off the persistent Gaels' front seven. The Pride has two match-up problems on the outside with Brown and Emmanuel Butler.
“Brown is enough, but when you have a 6-foot-3 Emmanuel Butler on the other side it makes it difficult,” Sanchez said. “We can’t let them get loose in the secondary.”
In the big picture, this is just one of 10 regular season games, but come Friday night it is going to feel like so much more.
“We can’t wait for this game,” junior offensive center Collin Lambdin said. “We are heading up there ready to play. Coach Vaughan is relentless in his pursuit of a victory. That mentality has become who we are.”
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