LAS VEGAS — In what was billed as the most anticipated high school game of the year, No. 1 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) eked out a 25-24 triple-overtime win over No. 9 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) when Biaggio Ali Walsh converted a two-point conversion on the final play of the game.
After Tate Martell’s 10-yard touchdown to Jalen Nailor cut the Aquinas lead to 24-23, an encroachment call on the Raiders moved the ball to the 2-yard line, and Gorman replaced its kicking unit with its offense.
“Once we scooted up a little bit closer we decided to go for two,” Bishop Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “And I thought our offensive coordinator called a great play and it worked. This is the greatest win ever (for this program).”
Which is saying something for a program that is the two-time defending Super 25 champion, has won 45 consecutive games and only has five losses in the last seven-plus seasons. The last loss for the Gaels (6-0) was Oct. 4, 2013, to Miami’s Booker T. Washington, which incidentally knocked off Aquinas in both teams’ season opener in August.
Aquinas, which was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, had a potential game-winning field goal blocked by Bubba Bolden in the second overtime. On third down, the Raiders opted to attempt a 25-yarder, but Bolden busted through the line of scrimmage to get a hand on the ball, which caromed off the crossbar.
“That’s just one of those things where they came off the field and they were little bit down and I told them ‘Hey we still got one more play to play, let’s just go block it and we’ll just keep it going.’ And that’s what we did,” Sanchez said.
Said Bolden: “That was the last play and it was to win the ballgame so I just told my teammates I’m going to do the best I can to jump over the pile and block it.”
Bishop Gorman (6-0), which came in averaging more than 400 yards and 40.4 points per game, has played the tougher schedule this season, with three opponents that spent time in the Super 25. But Friday night was easily the Gaels’ biggest test.
But as staunch as the Raiders were against Gorman’s high-powered offense, the Gaels stood just as firm with their stop unit and Bolden leading the way. The Raiders (3-2) had allowed six points in three games since losing 27-23 to Booker T. Washington (Florida) in their season opener, and made its presence felt early as the Gaels led 3-0 at halftime.
One of the nation’s top safeties, Bolden also had two interceptions in the game, including one in the end zone to thwart Aquinas’ momentum in the fourth quarter. On the same play, the Raiders lost wide receiver Trevon Grimes, who injured his left knee and eventually was taken from the sidelines on a stretcher by paramedics.
“I told my defense, and I tweeted earlier that I was going to do it for everybody who helped me get here,” Bolden said. “And I came out and I did that.”
“The turnovers were huge and I thought, honestly, (Bolden) played a great game,” Sanchez said. “I thought our defense played tremendous, absolutely tremendous.”
The Raiders were led by quarterback Jake Allen, who was 17 of 31 for 123 yards and one touchdown, and running back Michael Epstein, who rushed for 58 yards on 19 carries, including one touchdown.
Marco Salani’s 24-yard field goal as time expired forced the overtime. Aquinas took over at its own 39 with 3:39 remaining and moved inside the 10 with help from a gutsy scramble from Allen and a pass interference penalty. Aquinas ran three consecutive running plays with a first-and-10 from the 14 with 1:14 remaining.