Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023 | 2:12 p.m.
When the Bishop Gorman and Liberty football teams played in September during the regular season, you could argue both squads were simply going through the motions.
Regardless of the outcome, players and coaches in the powerhouses programs knew what was next: The state championship game against each other Nov. 21 at Allegiant Stadium.
The matchup was formalized Friday night when Liberty beat Shadow Ridge 27-8 in the Class 5A-Division I state semifinals, and Bishop Gorman took down Coronado 63-12 in the other semifinal.
And now, they wait — for 18 days.
“It’s going to be weird, kind of like a college bowl game,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said, referring to the three-week gap between the end of college football’s regular season and most of the postseason bowl games.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association is in the first-year of a realignment cycle that added two divisions in the Class 5A and uneven playoff brackets.
The class featuring Gorman and Liberty has no Northern Nevada opponent and only seven teams, resulting in the state’s top schools sitting and waiting for the chance to compete for a title on Thanksgiving week.
You could easily argue the top teams and players in the state were placed alone and told to fight among themselves for a city title. But, then again, no matter how you aligned the top programs, Gorman and Liberty would have to go through each other.
Gorman won every state championship from 2009-18, before it was upset by Liberty in the 2019 playoffs. Liberty has won 38 playoff games over the past 14 seasons, but nine times has been eliminated by Gorman.
Both teams have become national brands, including Gorman winning three straight mythical national titles through 2016. Gorman is ranked No. 1 nationally and could win another mythical national title this season.
Just don’t expect Liberty to go down lightly.
Even after losing 49-6 in the regular season to Gorman, the Patriots have beaten Gorman once before and won’t be mentally defeated going into the game.
“All of the success that we’ve had here in the last 15 years, you know, it established a mindset,” Muraco said. “We have a sign over there that says, ‘We believe.’ And that’s what it takes against Gorman. If you don’t believe that you can beat a team and you go in with a defeatist attitude, then you give into that.”
Jayden Robertson had three touchdowns in the win over Shadow Ridge. He also scored in the regular season against Gorman.
“We are really excited to go against Gorman again,” Robertson said. “It helps that we’ve already played them because we know what we are going against and we can change some things.”
The same is true for Gorman, who has more experience in playing the waiting game. They had a four week break last season between winning the state championship and playing in the Geico State Champions Bowl Series in mid-December.
“The kids are used to it. It feels like we had more bye weeks this season than ever before,” Gorman coach Brent Browner said. “It’s going to be tough to beat Liberty twice. They will be ready. That’s a tough team.”
Michigan commit Micah Kaapana had nine carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns in Gorman’s win over Coronado. The Gaels had 555 yards and nine touchdowns.