Conceivably, at that moment, junior Dorian Thompson-Robinson introduced the new era at the national powerhouse, as he took over at quarterback and finished the second half by helping lead Gorman to an 84-8 win against No. 21 Liberty (Henderson).
It was Gorman’s eighth consecutive state championship and put the Gaels on pace to win its third consecutive Super 25 national title.
Thompson-Robinson will make the switch from starting wide receiver and second-string quarterback next season, and becomes “the man” for Gorman – a role occupied by Martell, the Ohio State commit who finishes his high school career with a 43-0 record as a starter.
It will be Thompson-Robinson’s job to continue the Gaels’ winning ways. In addition to their state and national championship championship streaks, Gorman will carry a 54-game winning streak into next season.
“I try not to pay attention to the hype, because I really haven’t done anything yet,” Thompson-Robinson said. “There will definitely be a lot of pressure next summer. Everyone is talking about ‘this second-string quarterback.’ But I’m excited about it.”
Along with Martell, the Gaels graduate running back Biaggio Ali-Walsh and wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey from the offense, while safety Bubba Bolden, lineman Haskell Garrett, and key secondary components Greg Francis and Alex Perry are departing the defense.
“Just being with those guys throughout the whole year, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day we’re a family and we’ll always remember each other throughout our lives,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Me and my guys – Brevin (Jordan), Jalen (Nailor), EA (Palaie Gaoteote) – we have been talking about it, and now that it’s here, I really just can’t wait.”
Both juniors, Nailor led the team with 51 catches for 936 yards and 14 touchdowns and Jordan caught 27 passes for 501 yards and had nine touchdowns. On defense, Gaoteote led the team in tackles.
Thompson-Robinson is no secret on the national level, as he’s already received 15 offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida, Hawaii, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, San Diego State, Utah, UCLA and UNLV.
This week during preparation for the state title game, Thompson-Robinson – along with other juniors and uncommitted seniors – held workouts for Miami, Notre Dame and Michigan. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback grew up an Ohio State fan, but with a wide smile, the aspiring dentist wouldn’t reveal his current favorite college team because it is among the aforementioned 15 schools.
Thompson-Robinson has been at Gorman since his freshman year, when he was on the freshman team until being promoted to varsity during the playoffs. As a sophomore, he was a second-string quarterback behind Martell, but wasn’t a receiver.
“Over the summer, I was a little impatient,” he said. “But when (Gorman) coach (Kenny) Sanchez and (assistant) coach (Craig) Canfield told me I would be one of the leading receivers, I knew I just had to have fun with it and my time would come.”
On Saturday, his time came, and the new era at Bishop Gorman was ushered in.
“He’s definitely going to be the guy next year, this is his time,” Sanchez said. “He’s waited and worked hard. He’s been under a very good quarterback.
“We have all the confidence in the world in him taking over. We’re super proud of him for never complaining and always being a team player. We’re going to gain a quarterback and lose a great wide receiver.”
LOSING A COACH?
While Sanchez gave Thompson-Robinson a ringing endorsement as next year’s go-to guy, questions have been running rampant as to whether the second-year coach who is 30-0 since taking over the Gaels from his brother, Tony, will be returning for a third season.
Numerous rumors have speculated as to why Sanchez wouldn’t be back next year, but surfacing to the top of the list this week was the possibility of him joining his brother on UNLV’s staff. After the Gaels’ win on Saturday, a headline on the Las Vegas Review Journal website said: “Sanchez might leave Bishop Gorman for proposed UNLV assistant job.”
But the NCAA would have to pass legislation to allow teams to add a 10th assistant next season for that scenario to happen. The Review Journal reported that Sanchez would not join the UNLV staff as cornerbacks coach, which is the only current opening. That job is expected to be filled by former Arizona cornerbacks coach David Lockwood, the report said.
And while the younger Sanchez said there is always a possibility for coaches to leave their jobs when opportunities arise, he remained adamant he has no plans of leaving Bishop Gorman.
“I think anyone who has a job would always consider their options if presented to them and see if it’s right for their family, if it’s the best thing to do for them. Anyone’s going to listen to other job offers,” Sanchez said after the game.
“All I know is right now I’m the head football coach at Bishop Gorman. The only thing I can do right now is either keep my job or go to the unemployment office.”
He did, however, concede he misses being on the sideline with his brother.
“I coached with him for a decade, I love coaching with him, he’s my older brother,” Sanchez said. “I mean, shoot, we had a lot of great times together. We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for him.”
Earlier this week Sanchez said he has already thought of next season. He said he welcomes the challenge it brings without this year’s blue-chip players and the potential next year’s roster has.
“The challenge is exciting,” he said. “We’re not going to win the rest of our lives. Getting the younger kids ready to go, building is fun, that’s for sure. Even when you’re winning, you build.
“We’ll go back to work in January and prepare for the 2017 program, like we’ve always done. We try to get better and I think we’ll have a pretty good schedule like we’ve always done. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about getting better.”
If Saturday was an indicator of how good Gorman’s defense will be next season, there is nothing to worry about.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, sophomore Greg Oliver intercepted Liberty quarterback Kenyon Oblad – the first of two picks for Oliver in the game. Junior linebacker Skylar Silva also intercepted a pass.
“We’re a special group and we bond together real nice,” Oliver said. “It’s just been a great year overall. I just came out focused out today and ready.”
After struggling in a scrimmage against Liberty before the season, Oliver credited defensive leaders such as Bolden for picking him up, while also preparing him to step in for injured Malik Hausman.
Bolden, who has made key plays in nearly all of Gorman’s big games this season, wasn’t challenged too often Saturday, as Oblad avoided Bolden’s zone, opting to throw over the middle or toward Oliver’s side.
Bolden took it at as a sign of respect, but also said he enjoyed seeing his protégé step up on the big stage.
“It was real good to have my side locked down, but we had our sophomore corner come up with two picks, and I was just sitting back watching my other players do what they gotta do,” said Bolden, who remains uncommited. “I did my job all season, and it paid off here. I’m going to miss playing with everyone, this is a great team. It’s sad not playing anymore for Gorman, but I gotta move on to bigger and better things.”
Just as the rest of Bolden’s senior teammates will be doing, while leaving the younger Gaels to carry on the legacy.