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Bishop Gorman’s game in Florida offers chance to climb in polls

It is not a reach to suggest Bishop Gorman is one of the Alabamas of high school football, with the caveat it is difficult to win the national high school football championship with a loss — something Alabama has accomplished no fewer than 10 times.

In a nutshell and a cup of Florida sunshine, that summarizes the significance of the Gaels traveling to play Miami Central in another showdown of nationally ranked teams at 5 p.m. Las Vegas time Saturday.

The national high school championship is decided by a poll or polls, much as college football was before the advent of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998 and the College Football Playoff in 2014.

Gorman won three national titles from 2014 to 2016 during which it went 45-0. Preceding the Gaels’ run, the polling services recognized 74 national prep champions from 1975 to 2012 and not one was sullied by a defeat.

Having crept into the top 10 in the USA Today and MaxPreps polls — Gorman is No. 9 in each — the Gaels are back in the national title conversation. Despite a 35-12 loss to No. 3 St. John Bosco on opening weekend, Miami Central is ranked 24th in both polls.

Opportunity knocks

As the highest-ranked team remaining on Gorman’s schedule, the public-school Rockets represent the best chance for the Gaels to accumulate style points and climb a spot or two in the polls. Of course, none of this matters to Gorman coach Brent Browner, at least when he’s speaking for the record.

“You hear all about the rankings and things like that, but realistically no ranking matters until the very last one,” said the first-year coach, who guided the Gaels to a 42-21 victory over formidable St. Louis of Hawaii on opening night before last week’s game against Northern Nevada rival Bishop Manogue was canceled by smoke from the California wildfires.

“We’re just approaching every game the same way,” Browner said. “We want to be 1-0 at the end of this week again. We just want to win the game — it does help us control our fate in the rankings and things like that, but we’re not going to get caught up in where we’re ranked every single week.”

The game against Miami Central is Gorman’s only cross-country trip this season. But Browner says his players won’t be checking out South Beach — for starters, the game will played in Naples, about a two-hour drive from Miami, at the new Paradise Coast Sports Complex as part of the Battle at the Beach series.

“It’s about playing the game — it’s a business trip like anything else,” Browner said in repeating the mantra of other coaches who take their teams to an exotic locale.

Chance for revenge

This is one business trip for which Gorman will want to have its briefcase fully stocked.

Miami Central has won seven state championships and sent more than a dozen of its players to the NFL. Central was so dominant in last season’s 46-0 Class 6A championship victory over Lake Minneola that the game was completed using a running clock.

In 2017, when Central traveled to Las Vegas to play the No. 7-ranked Gaels and star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the Rockets pulled off a 24-20 upset in the rain.

“A hurricane (Irma) had just hit when they left, and they couldn’t go back home right away because there was a lot of devastation where everybody was living,” Browner, then a Gorman assistant coach, said in recalling that game.

It’s expected to be 87 degrees with 74 percent humidity and a 33 percent chance of thunderstorms Saturday with 11 mph winds.

The weather forecast is less than perfect for a team accustomed to a desert climate. But the opportunity for Gorman to reassert itself as a national championship contender against a quality opponent might never be more ideal.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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