With the emergence of Bishop Gorman as a premier football destination on the west coast, the Gaels have seen a steady influx of talent that allowed the program to take 6 of the last 7 state titles in the large school classification. This past season the Gaels didn't feature the offensive production of years past, a new group of transfers have rolled in to solidify their status as the team to beat.
A deep group of public school have remained hovering at the top trying to unseat the Gaels and they all return as challengers once again:
1. Bishop Gorman 13-2
With a fresh influx of out of state transfers and an already impressive roster, the Gaels will be tough to beat once again in a league of traditional high school programs. Although breaking in new pieces on both lines, the 2015 edition looks deep but they are also very inexperienced.
Last season the Gaels only lost to the Florida (Booker T Washington) and Arizona (Mountain Pointe) state champions en route to a fifth straight Nevada title. With a premier front line, the remaining programs struggled to match the Gaels physicality in the trenches.
Despite an outstanding season behind the athletic skills of quarterback Randall Cunningham II, the Gaels actually took a step back on offense last season without four year starter Anu Solomon at the helm as well as the loss of star Nathan Starks during the off-season.
Despite playing 15 games on the year, the Gaels failed to see a running back surpass the 1000-yard mark, the leading pass catcher only reached 571-yards on the year and just 2040-yards came through the air for a team that was somewhat average offensively for the number of athletes they features. 51% of the yards and 35% of the scoring went through Cunningham alone as he passed for 1773-yards and rushed for 1425-yards in his only season as a starter. This season, the Gaels will look to turn to a more balanced attack behind a revamped group of players.
Pocket passer Danny Hong is slated to take over at the quarterback behind a large but untested offensive line. Once a transfer to Westlake (CA), Hong got his feet wet behind center as a three year varsity reserve but he hasn't played under fire since he was in youth football. He will be under pressure to play well right away with Stetson Stallworth, the athletic Damuzhea Bolden and Poway (CA) transfer Tate Martell all in the wings. Martell is the only player of the group with starting experience but all have a lot to prove as far as being capable carrying a team to the top.
Last season there was a major lack of production out of the pass catchers with four-star tight end Alize Jones being the only semblance of a go-to pass catcher but reinforcements out of California will make the team very capable on paper. Diamond Bar's Cordell Broadus joins the Gaels' program as a large framed wide receiver and Poway's Tyjon Lindsey is the smaller speedster that can create a dangerous trio. This has the makings of an all star cast of targets that can should be very tough to cover for opposing teams.
The running back position also features a log jam with Russell Booze as the leading returning rusher but Biaggio Ali-Walsh and Jonathan Shumaker are going to challenge him this season for carries. Booze has added weight and speed during the off-season which should allow him to be more physical but the Gaels will be facing elite opponents with a novice line up front. Getting a consistent push will be a challenge during out of conference play so the running backs won't have much of a hole to work with. Although the Gaels have a tendency to favor seniors, the underclassmen will have a shot to emerge if the running game struggles to assert itself once again.
Spoiled with premier players in recent years, the new line will need to get up to speed fast if the offense is find success. Jackson Perry leads a good sized but inexperienced group that lacks big game experience and elite overall athletic ability. The Gaels rise to prominence has been keyed by the front line and the schedule dictates nothing will happen if they become leaky upfront. Right now this is a solid high school offensive line but they will need to transition to greatness quickly.
Defensively, the Gaels have an outstanding group of defensive backs but the front seven is a bit shorter than average. Alex Perry and Jabari Butler are lockdown corners on the edge that should allow the Gaels to focus on getting after the football. Nicco Fertitta returns as a speedy safety that has no fear attacking the run but defense will need to out athlete opponents to be effective.
The loss of Zack Singer is huge on the interior but nose guard Noah Tialavea emerged as a run stuffer in the middle last season. He will need to keep Nela Otukolo clean at the second level if the Gaels are to be able to take advantage of their edge speed to get opponents off the field.
Based on previous records, this is the most challenging schedule the Gaels have faced ever and it will be nearly impossible for them to go undefeated but there is also a real possibility this team could be 0-6 entering league play if they struggle at the quarterback position once again.
In Nevada, the Gaels are the team to beat and the average public high school team will lack the depth to match up with them in overall positional depth. With Palo Verde to finish the season, the Gaels will be won't cake walk to a division title but they have elite weapons on offense. Team morale after a challenging out-of-conference schedule will be the biggest test in locking down sixth straight state title. With many new faces moving in to compete with returnees for limited spots, it will be hard to keep everyone happy if the team struggles to put opponents away.
2. Reed 12-2
For three straight years, the Geals road to the state title has gone through Reed during the state playoffs and the Raiders return an outstanding team this season. One of the elite offensive attacks in the state, the Raiders should be in overdrive this season.
Like the Gaels, the Raiders fate will fall into the into the hands of an inexperienced passer but Jackson Gilmore is a dual threat that should thrive in the program's system as a senior. With a big arm, Gilmore is a dangerous player in the pocket or on the move. He is a large framed quarterback that is able to play through contact and shows a fearlessness in his play with a knack for the big play.
Stepping into the lead role as pass catchers will be seniors Alex Hernandez and Grayson Young. Sure handed targets, both players are tough to cover and can challenge opposing defensive backs in single coverage.
After riding the the physical play of Jordan Deleon, scatback Jordan Carter should move into the role of primary ball carrier behind a physical front line keyed by Cody Carr. Primarily a spread based team, having a player like Carr in the middle to open up the run game should provide plenty of balance.
Defensively, linebacker Jordyn Rather and lineman Alden Giang are players that you can build a defense around. Rather should continue the trend of outstanding linebacker play while Giang is an impressive run defender on the front line. The Raiders aren't the fastest defense but they are physical at the point of attack and well coached in the backfield making them very tough to move the ball against.
Like the Gaels, the Raiders open the season with challenging opponents including Mountain Pointe (AZ) but, if they hit the ground running, they will be very tough to beat in the North. If the offense is as productive as expected, Reed has a great chance of getting over the hump to walk away with a state title.
3. Liberty 10-4
After becoming a force by utilizing a power running game, the Patriots took to the air last season behind Tyler Newman as he blew away the previous record for passing yards in a season. This season will see a set of players looking to run the show.
In steps North Carolina transfer John Aldridge III and junior Kevin Verboonen to battle for the helm. Both plays appear capable of being the starter with Aldridge being the being the larger player and Verboonen being the more experienced in the system. Its tough to match the production of Newman but both players bring enough talent to the fold to allow the program to be a strong threat once again through the air.
You don't get great quarterback play without high quality receivers and the Patriots took major losses but Bradley Viloria, Chris Reed, Bryan Roland and Noah Jefferson provide a variety of options. Reed is a larger target that finished number three in receptions as a junior and should become a go-to pass catcher combining with tight end Jefferson as top red zone threats. Roland and Viloria quick targets that will be tough to cover in space giving the team the ability to spread the field once again.
Although no running back reached 100-carries last season, the Patriots are stacked at the position with two players that are capable of being stars returning. Calvin Tubbs and Ethan Tuilagi are physical style backs with impressive burst that can run opposing teams into the ground. Tuilagi was the team's second leading rusher last season while the 230-pound Tubbs averaged over 10 yards-per-carry behind the duo. They will benefit from a large front line that is among the deepest in the state.
Defensively, defensive tackle Jefferson and Fred Stevenson are tone setters up front that are capable of dominating the point of attack. Great athletes, the duo can generate pressure versus the pass and should be much stronger versus the run this season.
At the next line of defense, junior Ki'iami Batoon is back to join Tuilagi as part of a deep group of linebackers that will be depended on to make the defense much stingier after having problem with teams that spread the field in 2013.
Matt Powell, Spencer Wilson, Ethan Dedeaux and Roland are returning in the defensive backfield to complete the team this season. All are very experienced in big contest as well as a year stronger and faster.
Until proven otherwise, the Patriots are the team to beat in the Sunrise and they return too many pieces to not remain in the top three among contenders for state. Returning tons of experience and depth should push them deep into the postseason with the versatility to go through or around opponents offensively.
4. Green Valley 9-3
The Gators will be title contenders once again after rolling off 18-wins over the last two years.The team took heavy personnel losses from last season with several key players moving on but they have leaders returning that should ease the transition.
Since the emergence of quarterback Christian Lopez, the Gators have been outstanding on offense racking up major yards through the air. The state's top returning quarterback, Lopez has outstanding accuracy and the mobility to make plays on the move on all levels of the field. Lopez should be outstanding as a senior though he has has to break in an entirely new set of unproven pass catchers.
The wide receiver position is somewhat of question mark but the the running back position features two stars that should be very productive in Albert Lake and Larry Norman. The Gators will need to depend on a strong ground game early if they are to get off to a strong start this season. Very speedy and quick, Lake is a more dangerous threat in the open field while Norman is the more physical of the duo with good strength between the tackles. Both have the speed to also get out on the edge and can make plays in the pass game as well.
(Updated: Both could make way for the addition of Liberty rushing leader Brenan Adams. Adams is a complete back that can be the Gators' primary ball carrier allowing Norman and Lake to stay fresh on defense.)
The offensive line should be great this year as well with the return of Joel Salakielu and Carter Nielson up front. Two of the state's top linemen, the nucleus is in place for the offense to be able to control the point of attack and but they need someone to step at tackle to replace the dominant play of Tyrell Crosby on the edge.
Defensively, Green Valley struggled a bit giving up a high volume of points last year but their struggles were masked by by a knack for creating turnovers. This season, the defense hasn't upgraded and presents the biggest question to a successful season. Crosby's loss will be felt even more so on the defensive side of the ball this year where his ability to get pressure created problems for opposing offenses.
Lake and Norman return as the key to the defense this season with several returnees. Both player have great range in the secondary but will need to have a bigger impact versus the run for the team to be successful. '
The Gators have an easier route to the playoffs in division play but their out of conference schedule will be challenging making the process of reaching another 9 wins season extremely tough. This is a team that will continue to gain traction as they close in on the postseason which should prepare them for a deep playoff run
5. Palo Verde 10-2
The Panthers are no stranger to being at the top but they haven't been able to get past Bishop Gorman in their last five attempts to get to the Nevada title game. This season, they will reside in the same division.
After going to the air often the two seasons, the Panthers should turn to the ground more often to set the tone on the field. Behind the power running of Jaren Campbell, the team has a workhorse that is capable of carrying the the ball in crucial situations and he has the physical skills to be a feature player.
Giving the program more options in the backfield, Darrion Finn and Ty Gust-Fuller who should emerge as threats to press the edges this season. Blazers, both players produced last season and should be ready to gain a larger role on the offensive side of the ball as seniors.
The offensive line lost some major talent from last season but they aren't locked in to tradition blocking schemes. With quality bulk up front, they should be able to generate a good push and feature the athletes to pick up defenders on the second level.
Last season, the Panthers featured the best defensive line in the state but will be hard pressed to replace their production. Joseph Laurita is a good athlete that has the ability to be productive in the trenches and Jordan Bruner returns as a physical defender that can be a productive pass rusher off the edge with the frame to play end or linebacker.
Campbell and junior Chauntez Thomas have the ability to be impact linebackers this year. Both players are strong versus the run and can get after the passer with impressive speed. Instinctive players, the duo will be outstanding in 2014.
With a deep and speedy group of defensive backs led by Graeson Vereen, the Panthers have plenty playmakers. Gust-Fuller, Finn and Dallas White round out an experienced group that should be very stingy versus the pass this season and capable of creating huge plays. Built around physicality, they can step up versus the run which should allow the defense to be great this season.
With Green Valley, Las Vegas and Liberty early in the season, the Panthers will be battle tested during the regular season closing the year versus Bishop Gorman. Although the road ahead is extremely tough, the Panther are always up to the challenge as a team that gets stronger as the season progresses.
6. Arbor View 8-3
Led by a large and mobile offensive line, the Aggies are in position to steamroll opponents this season and play in a division that makes them the most likely team to go undefeated this football season. The Aggies should average around 6-foot-3 260-pounds across the front line among a veteran offensive line that gives them a decided advantage over their opponents.
It all starts up front this season with the return of Malik Noshi, Keenen King, Blake Coggins and Shaun Tracy to lead the charge. In a run based offense, the Aggies feature a group that should blow open holes this season giving the running game plenty of room to operate as well as the play action pass.
Herman Gray returns as a veteran ball carrier to lead a diverse group out of the backfield. Style McDaniel and Denajiou McZeal should find themselves in the mix as a seniors with McZeal providing the power between the tackles. With a deep group of athletes ready to emerge on varsity, the Aggies will have no shortage of options on any given down.
Defensively, King and Noshi return as cogs in the middle that can keep the rest of the defense clean. Quemaree Harris, Bishop Jones and Gage Motl emerged last season as playmakers off the edge with all expected to continue to play a big role on a stingy defense.
McZeal is a tough run defender on the inside at linebacker but the defensive backfield will be looking for new stars step in for a great graduated class.
Canyon Springs is the only top ten team in the way of the Aggies rolling to an undefeated season following the divisional shuffle of the off-season. There will be teams looking to mount a challenge on the way but with a physical group that will be favored in every contest, the Aggies should be on a roll come playoff time which should make them a major contender in the Sunset.
7. Canyon Springs 9-2
The Pioneers are annual contenders and once again will be an extremely tough team to take down in the quest for the title.
Led by quarterback Bradley Alexander and running back Zaviontay Stevenson, this season's offense has the tools in place to be the best the team has featured since Devonte Christopher roamed the sidelines.
Although not a traditional passer physically, Alexander is smart with impressive accuracy that should allow him to bloom on the field as a senior. He also has the tools to be more dangerous with his feet improving his overall speed and quickness during the off-season. Returning all of his top pass catchers from last season, there is no reason to believe he won't hit the ground running this season developing into an elite threat.
The Pioneers also return D1's leading returning rusher in Stevenson. A 1200-yard rusher as a junior, he has a good mix of power and burst with the ability to excel as a traditional back or out of the spread. Well built, he is a workhorse out of the backfield that should see more space if Alexander blossoms this season.
On the front line, a deep group of athletic big bodies means the Pioneers will have no problem competing in the trenches this season. Star lineman Melvin Johnson is an elite level athlete in the mix that can dominate on the edge offensively but he flips around to also star as a dominating defender that can set the pace of the game from defensive tackle.
The Pioneers are absorbing major losses to a stingy defense but linebacker Ezeguiel Lopez, corner Marcel Selmon and safety Christian Minor return as the nucleus of the back seven. One of the more athletic programs in the state, they have the athletes to fill new roles, so there won't be a major drop off as they rebuild.
Canyon plays in an extremely challenging division that features three of Nevada's top 10 programs. The schedule will test them early and often but they have the pieces in place to face the challenge if Alexander improves as much as expected.
8. Las Vegas 6-5
Featuring a high powered offense, the Wildcats had an impressive run last season before falling to Green Valley in the playoffs. This season, they return enough key stars in place to be even stronger in 2014.
Trevor Swenson may not feature the strongest arm in the state but he produces on Friday nights. A two year starter, he has the ability to keep the offense on time and can make big plays down the seam. The Wildcats have to develop a new primary target but they have experienced seniors in the mix that should give Swenson some options.
The star of the offense will be running back Elias Miller. After waiting two years to become a starter, Miller should have his talent on full display with the upside to be the most productive back in the state as a senior. He is a threat in both the passing and run game being capable of carrying the team offensively
The Mark Gacutan twins lead a potentially outstanding offensive line. With a quick strike offense, they are dominating as run blocker and ensure teams won't have the opportunity to gain much pressure off the edge.
Defensively, linebacker Jacob Littlefield is a great defender versus the run with the speed to get after the passer up the middle. He is extremely active on the field which makes him a front runner in the race for Defensive Player of the Year. With him as the centerpiece, the defense should step up to be very effective.
Fellow linebackers Miller, Will Perriot and Ryan Magante should complete a very strong second level of the defense. If the front line guys can keep them clean, teams will have a tough time moving the ball consistently. They should also allow the defensive backfield to have the room to freelance and make plays versus teams that take to the air.
The Wildcats have a balanced schedule opening the season versus Rancho in the annual "Bone Game" with only one top ten team before division play. The road to a # 1 seed goes through Liberty and Canyon Springs but the Wildcats are built to compete with Miller being possibly the best weapon among skill players in the state.
9. Galena 8-3
Extremely senior heavy last football season, the Grizzlies replace nearly every starter this year but they should rise to the top of the Sierra once again. With quarterback Brock Raggio and running back Ben Bernard no longer around to carry the offense, the team gets younger but possibly more explosive.
Seniors Aiden Craddock or Jared Spotted Bear lack playing time on the field but should key the passing game if one emerges at quarterback. Neither has the overall throwing skills of Raggio but they've had a year to learn on varsity and should be able to provide consistent play at the position. A physical player, Spotted Bear could also emerge as a key pass catcher.
Another player that should emerge is junior speedster Ivan Giron-Burnham. Primarily a running back, he has the skills to also be a very dangerous pass catcher as well and can earn his place among the elite players in his class with a big year.
with the graduation of Eric Anderson, new player will need to step forward if the team is to get it done on the front line. Luke Morse has the potential to be a great player off the edge on both sides of the ball and sophomore Junior Pousima is ready to emerge as a star on the interior.
Spotted Bear and Elijah Rogers are the core of the back seven on defense. With a shallow roster, it will be up to the underclassmen to step in right away on the defensive side of the ball to keep the team at the top of the division but the talent is there finish the year with another regular season title.
In any other division, the Grizzlies would fall much further out of the box but every team in the Sierra Division will need to bounce back from losing a heavy senior class. Galena appears to be ready to stay in the hunt and they should be very tough to knock off the hill.
10. McQueen 6-4
The Lancer won't overwhelm you with sheer size but depth and speed should allow them to maintain a presence among the top ten this year as they look for a way to get past Reed. Heavy on injuries last fall, many juniors were able to see quality playing time and should be ready to step in to fill roles right away.
Gone is running back Lucas Weber but Patrick DeLeon, Kyle Draeger and Nathan Narra should keep the running game moving this season. Although not as physically dominant as Weber, the trio brings the skill and variety out of the backfield to be very effective.
Very light on the front lines, the Lancers will depend on quickness and execution to compete among team with more traditional sized players in the trenches. Defensively, pass rusher Ricky Thomas can be a tone setter off the edge and utilize his burst to be very disruptive off the snap.
With Narra, Jeremiah Estes and Roman Satroplus returning at linebacker, the team has an great clean up crew at the second level that should allow the front line to take chances by shooting the gaps and be disruptive.
The Lancers are Northern contenders on paper but will need to throw a lot of bodies at teams with better bulk along the front line to stay competitive. Most team can't match the roster numbers they can bring to the table and the staff should keep them in the mix for another playoff run.
QB Christian Lopez Green Valley
RB Zaviontay Stevenson Canyon Springs
RB Elias Miller Las Vegas
RB DeMichael Walker Legacy
WR Cordell Broadus Bishop Gorman
WR Chris Reed Liberty
TE Alize Jones Bishop Gorman
OL Anthony Gacutan Las Vegas
OL Justin Polu Silverado
OL Jackson Perry Bishop Gorman
OL Carter Nielson Green Valley
OL Gil Gacutan Las Vegas
DL Noah Jefferson Liberty
DL Alden Giang Reed
DL Melvin Johnson Canyon Springs
DL Ricky Thomas McQueen
LB Ethan Tuilagi Liberty
LB Jacob Littlefield Las Vegas
LB Jaren Campbell Palo Verde
LB Jordyn Rather Reed
CB Bryan Roland Liberty
CB Jabari Butler Bishop Gorman
S Nicco Fertitta Bishop Gorman
S Samuel Liaga Centennial
Ath Albert Lake Green Valley