The Raiders went into the contest knowing they would have to play a perfect game in order to pull off the upset against the reigning state champion Gaels, and for 32 minutes Reed put together a nearly flawless game. With 4:04 to left in the third quarter, the Raiders were down 21-17 and still in striking distance of the national power. Over the remainder of the matchup, Gorman erased the evidence that the contest had been close at all as the Gaels ripped off 21 straight points en route to a 49-24 victory.
“If you’re going to beat a team like Gorman, you have to play four perfect quarters,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “I thought the first two were really good. We created some turnovers defensively and we created momentum for ourselves in the first half. We came out in the second half and did a couple things here and there, but we definitely let it get away. We just weren’t executing like we were in the first half.
“In the first half, we played mistake free football. That was probably the biggest thing. We were fortunate enough to get a couple turnovers and not make many mistakes on our end and that’s why we were in that position.”
After Reed quarterback Mark Nowaczewski drilled a pass over the seam to receiver Brett Chaney to knot the game at 14-14 with 1:35 left before half, Gorman answered back with a big play of its own. Just 40 seconds later, Gaels quarterback Jarrett Solomon dropped a perfect pass into the arms of receiver Ryan Smith for a 73-yard score and a 21-14 lead at the break. Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said to regain the lead was a large momentum swing in the game.
“It was really big. Obviously going into halftime with a lead is huge difference than going in with an even game,” he said. “Anytime the other team is trying to play catch and climb the hill, it makes a difference. Whether it’s play calling or the decisions you make, it’s a whole different deal when the game is tied up.”
After the intermission, the teams exchanged punts before the Raiders worked their way down to Gorman’s 11-yard line. From there though, Reed (10-4) was unable to find the end zone, instead settling for a 30-yard field goal by Chris Denn to bring the score to 21-17. Howren said failing to capitalize on the opportunity to tie the game once again was a crucial point in the game.
“We ended up getting a field goal and we needed a touchdown,” he said. “I think that hurt us right there. If you get that touchdown, I think you’re talking about a different ball game at that point.”
From that point, Bishop Gorman (12-1) took over.
Over a three minute period, Gael junior running back Nathan Starks reeled off a six-yard plunge followed by a 54-yard gallop that turned the four-point deficit into a 35-17 advantage for Gorman. After the Blue and Orange defense forced another Reed three-and-out, the Gaels went back to work as Solomon connected with receiver Jamir Tillman on a 24-yard score that put Gorman ahead 42-17 with 7:48 remaining in the game.
“I think it was a combination of them having great players and them doing a great job of making a couple halftime adjustments,” Howren said of the Gaels’ offensive explosion following halftime. “They moved the ball well in the second half. They’re a great coaching staff and they’re going to make adjustments. We had a couple missed tackles. You have to play mistake free football and if you go back and watch the film on two of those big runs, there were missed tackles. One in the backfield and one for what would have been about a five-yard gain. We missed those two tackles and it was key.”
While Howren attributed it the change in the game’s landscape to adjustments by Gorman, the Gaels’ coach said it was simply a matter of his players waking up.
“At the end of the day, we came out flat,” Sanchez said. “I give Reed credit, don’t get me wrong, but we didn’t come out. Reed came out and they had a good game plan ready to go. I felt like our kids played a little uninspired. Sometimes we take things for granted and a lot of things get written all the time about this and that, and unfortunately they’re teenagers and they believe a lot of the stuff.”
Nowaczewski ended the scoring streak for the Gaels with a 24-yard dart to the end zone to bring the score to 42-24 with 4:41 left on the clock, but just over a minute later Starks broke through the line of scrimmage and coasted 61 yards for another touchdown, resulting in the final of 49-24.
While the defeat was a tough pill to swallow for the Raiders, Howren said his team still had plenty of reasons to hold its head high.
“I’m just happy for our seniors,” he said. “There’s definitely no moral victories because that probably means you lost the game and we did. I’m just happy for the seniors, for them to come out and play the way they did. They fought for four quarters.”
Nowaczewski finished the game 14-of-35 for 169 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 72 yards and another score on 15 carries. Shepard accounted for a score and 40 yards on 18 rushes. Chaney added seven catches for 134 yards and a TD. The Raiders totaled 284 yards in the contest.
Starks led the way to victory for the Gaels, racking up 207 yards and three touchdowns rushing on 21 carries. Solomon added 19 yards on four rushes, finding the end zone once. Through the air, Solomon threw for 215 yards on 11-of-19 passing with two TDs. Tillman led the Gaels’ receiving corps, grabbing seven passes for 127 yards and a score.