Will the real No. 1 team please stand up?
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), which started the season as the No. 1 team before losing its regular-season opener 27-23 to Booker T. Washington (Miami), hits the road for a game Friday night at the current No. 1 team, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). The game will be carried on ESPNU at 10 p.m. (ET) as part of the GEICO ESPN High School Football Showcase.
Aquinas (3-1), now ranked No. 9, has won back-to-back state 7A titles and has more former players in the NFL than most colleges. Bishop Gorman (5-0) has won seven consecutive state titles, back-to-back Super 25 titles and is on a 44-game winning streak.
It’s a game both teams have been looking forward to for a long time. In December, Bishop Gorman quarterback Tate Martell tweeted for Aquinas and other teams to call for a game. Raiders wide receiver Trevon Grimes admonished Martell for calling out “South Florida football” and responded that Gorman’s coaches should be calling.
Apparently, both teams were excited to get their wish.
“We were fired up when we found out,” Bishop Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “We knew they were a really good, storied program. It was going to be on ESPN. We wanted that game really badly.”
The Gaels have had the tougher schedule with three opponents that have spent time in the Super 25 this season. Aquinas, however, has shown its defense can be dominant. Since the loss to Booker T. Washington, the Raiders have allowed one touchdown in 12 quarters and that came when the game was already decided.
“Since week one, we’ve made some adjustments in the defensive backfield,” Raiders coach Roger Harriott said. “However, the truth is we have matured from a holistic standpoint. I’ve been proud of the leadership, loyalty and love our players have demonstrated toward each other and the entire program.”
Sanchez said what concerns him about the Raiders is their ability to put pressure on a defense.
“They have the ability to stretch the field,” Sanchez said. “Obviously, Grimes is a good football player, but they have plenty of dudes on their offense who can stretch the field. Both of their running backs (Kyshaun Bryan and Mike Epstein) are really good.”
The challenge for Aquinas will be stopping Martell, who has thrown for 816 yards and 13 touchdowns and also rushed for 406 yards and six touchdowns.
“Tate Martell is a talented dual-threat QB who possesses the ability to run and pass with confidence and composure,” Harriott said. “He’s a true competitor and field general. His skill level and passion for football have made it difficult for opposing teams to contain him. Our defense is up to the challenge.”
Between them, the teams have 15 players from the 2017 or 2018 classes who are ranked in ESPN’s 300, including four who are Ohio State commits (Grimes for Aquinas and defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey, and Martell for Bishop Gorman).
“I believe the last time the field was saturated with this much D1 talent was in 2009 when (Aquinas) played Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.),” Harriott said.