Bishop Gorman arrives Wednesday for showdown with Saint Louis

The phone rarely takes a break, so neither does Kenny Sanchez.

“I don’t know how I do it some days,” said Sanchez, now in his fifth season as the head football coach at national powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Nev.). “It’s crazy, man.”

Sanchez gets up at 4 a.m., does his workout, and is on campus by 7 a.m. After an administrative meeting, he presented school rules to the junior class by 9:30 a.m. It is part of his job as the school’s Director of Discipline. Shortly after, Sanchez had just gotten out of a staff meeting and had a few minutes for a media interview. There were texts that needed response. It goes on all day.

This week is especially wired as the Gaels, 17-time Nevada state champions, prepare to leave on Wednesday for a trip to Honolulu. The last four titles have come under Sanchez. Bishop Gorman will play three-time Hawaii Open Division state champion Saint Louis in a matchup — or “The Showdown”, as T-shirts tout — at Aloha Stadium on Friday night. The Bishop Gorman-Saint Louis game, along with the Liberty (Nev.)-Mililani contest, is billed as the Aloha Football Classic.

Saint Louis has won a combined 20 state titles and Oahu Prep Bowls. Eighteen of those came with Cal Lee as head coach.

Bishop Gorman, a co-ed Catholic school, is quite familiar with all the attention. The Gaels were unofficial national champions in 2014, ’15 and 16. Currently, the USA Today Super 25 has Saint Louis, now 2-0 overall, at No. 12 with Bishop Gorman at No. 13. The MaxPreps Xcellent 25 has a bigger gap with Saint Louis at No. 10 and Bishop Gorman at No. 15.

While Lee sees little to no benefit in the hype of national rankings, Sanchez goes in a different direction.

“We’re playing a team that’s ranked higher than us, so for us that’s exciting and that’s interesting to our fans. Our players get more fired up for practices,” said Sanchez, who began as an assistant coach in ’08. “I always try to figure out what excites them, and they get excited about rankings. Anything that gets your kids to get excited and play hard, why ignore it if it’s there? It’s so early for rankings, but the kids like that. We still want to focus on playing one game at a time.”

Sanchez and staff have seen plenty of Saint Louis video footage.

“Their quarterback (Jaylen de Laura) and receivers are extremely good. We have a lot of respect for their quarterback. He’s extremely good on his feet and he’s got a heck of an arm. All four receivers are good. The O-line is big, strong and physical. We’ve got our work cut out for us defensively. We have to be able to run the ball with those physical linebackers they have and their D-line. Coach Lee done a great job,” Sanchez said.

Bishop Gorman opened its season last weekend with a 40-7 win over Orem (Utah), which won its 4A state title last year. (Click here for the Bishop Gorman-Orem game video.) It was the first of four nonleague games against out-of-state teams for the Gaels.

The offense features Washington commit Rome Odunze, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound wide receiver.

“He runs a 10.7 100, was second or third in the state. He’s special. A great route runner, high GPA kid, 3.6,” Sanchez said.

Quarterback Micah Bowens, Sanchez noted, has great potential. The comparison of Bowens, who is 6-0, 200 pounds, to Arizona QB Khalil Tate is apt. Tate’s athleticism was on display in a 45-38 loss to Hawaii on Saturday when he nearly scored on a long run before being denied at the 1-yard line as time expired. Bowens started at defensive back for the Gaels as a sophomore.

“Micah is really gifted on his feet. If he doesn’t get rid of the ball right away, he can scramble. That’s a good comparison (to Tate). Micah runs a high 4.4, low 4.5 (40-yard dash),” Sanchez said.

Defensively, Dahlin Mesake, who recently decommitted from Brigham Young, and Ishe Smith are key as Bishop Gorman’s defensive ends. Connor Fryar and Tafao Amataga rotate at nose tackle. Inside linebacker Bryan Certain navigates the defensive unit.

The Gaels won’t leave anyone home. All 64 players are making the trip.

“We’re bringing our whole varsity. Honestly, the biggest thing is that we have good practices before we leave. Yesterday (Monday), today and tomorrow. That’s the most important thing. The game is won or lost already depending on the preparation by Wednesday,” Sanchez said.

There will be recreational time for the Gaels, but not until the game is done.

“The fun part is going out and playing in Aloha Stadium. What a historic place to play, being in Hawaii. Saturday is our free day. They can swim on the beach. The most fun is the game itself and playing a great team like Saint Louis,” Sanchez said.

The sometimes frenetic pace for any educator and coach has its rewards, but usually not until after the season. Football is practically bigger than life at Bishop Gorman, but the four-day stay in the islands will be different and special for the 2019 Gaels. Win or lose, there will be some freedom after the game.

“It’s a grind, but it’s a good job and I still get to do what I wanted to do from when I was a little kid,” Sanchez said, looking forward to his non-coaching hours on Oahu. “When I think of Hawaii, it’s hanging out on the beach on a great day.”

The Gaels will return to Las Vegas on Sunday.

“We’ll come back and practice on Monday,” Sanchez said. “We’ll get ready for Servite (Calif.).”


  1. All facts August 31, 2019 12:08 pm

    Until stl plays a top 5 team, win or loose then I’ll respect the program. Until then, they are rubbish,
    Beating up on Hawaii pop warner caliber teams.
    And proud of it. That’s why I respect Millville they play the top teams, win or loose. So with that been said,
    stl football program is Rubbish. And dats fact!!

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