All the things that the Bishop Gorman Gaels have achieved on the football field are straight out of an American novella.
The long hours in desert heat. The sweat equity, investing rep after rep in the weight room. The academic pressures of attending a college preparatory school. The deep pockets of longtime supporters who helped upgrade facilities, and now relish seeing all these aspects come together, building the nation’s No. 1 high school football program.
Kenny Sanchez oversees it all. Now in his second year as head coach, following in the footsteps of older brother and current UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez, the younger Sanchez has steered the Gaels (3-0) to the top of the nation, a consensus No. 1. They beat Cedar Hill, the top team in Texas, on the road, 44-14, two weekends ago. That prompted another Texas high school coach, who is also in charge of the state’s football coaches association, to pen a letter of criticism.
Sanchez responded with disappointment in the letter, but has since moved on. The Gaels were busy last week rallying past another elite program, St. John Bosco (Calif.), 35-20. The coach was kind enough to return a call to Hawaii Prep World on Tuesday morning, just minutes before practice.
Hawaii Prep World: Thank you for your time, Coach. Everything the Bishop Gorman program has accomplished on a national scale, traveling across state boundaries for games, it’s almost crazy good, isn’t it?
Sanchez: I don’t look at it as crazy. When you’re engulfed and on the front stage, you don’t have much time to think about what’s going on. It’s fun, for sure. When we look back at where we’ve been and who we’ve played, we’ll remember it was exciting. Right now, during the season, you get excited after the games on Fridays or Saturdays, then it’s back to work on Monday. Kahuku is our fourth (nationally) ranked team in four weeks. Most people who are grinders don’t think about what’s going on until maybe 20 years down the road.
HPW: Kahuku is as old school in style and execution as a team gets. What’s your take on them?
Sanchez: They do a really good job at what they do. They’ve been so successful the last two years. They’ve won 17 or 18 games in a row with Coach (Vavae) Tata. Watching the film, they ground and pound, and play really good defense. If it’s working for you, you don’t stray from it. We make it prettier with open packages and the spread, but we want to run the ball and pound it, too.
HPW: If you compare Kahuku to any team you’ve played this season, the last five, 10 years, who would it be?
Sanchez: We’ve played so many games and so many types of offenses. (St.) John Bosco was probably the biggest O-line we’ve ever played. They’re 6-4 and 320 across the board. They were some big dudes. We played Del Oro (Calif.) a few years ago. They’re not as big as Kahuku, but they like their 21 personnel and run the ball. Liberty (Nev.) also has a lot of Polynesians and they like their triple-I (formation) and pound the ball as well. They have good size and they get on top of you right away.
HPW: There’s a growing trend of island players moving to the mainland and you have a few of them at Bishop Gorman.
Sanchez: They’re great. Haskell (Garrett), Palaie (Gaoteote) and Jacob (Isaia), they’re great kids with great families, great parents. They’re very coachable. They’ve done a good job here buying into the program and working extremely hard, just trying to be a Bishop Gorman Gael. Their families moved here and we got them young, before their sophomore years. We’re just fortunate for that move to happen for their families. They’re all doing great in school, too. This is a college preparatory school, there’s no way around that. You have to do well academically, so we’re excited.
HPW: Thanks again for your time, Coach.
Sanchez: Thank you. We know you have your job to do, too.