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Battle-tested Gaels look to take No. 1 Tornadoes out of their comfort zone

Bishop Gorman and Booker T. Washington collide in one of this week's Super 25 games to watch



Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) QB Randall Cunningham Jr. and the No. 32 Gaels could try to control the clock against No. 1 Booker T. Washington (Miami). / Clint Jenkins, Bishop Gorman Athletics

Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas has played five games this season, all against tough out-of-state opponents. On Friday, the Gaels will make that six, with No. 1 Booker T. Washington of Miami visiting for a game on ESPNU (10 p.m., ET).

"When you go out and play these games, week-in and week-out, you're going through a different grind than the typical kid is," Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. "You learn to survive. We've done a good job of getting more productive with what we are."

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The Gaels, who are ranked No. 32, are 4-1 with their only loss coming in their opener against Mountain Pointe (Phoenix), now ranked No. 14. Booker T. Washington is 5-0 with wins over two ranked teams, including a 55-0 defeat at then-No. 6 Norcross, Ga., and a 28-17 defeat of then-No. 5 Miami Central. The Tornadoes' spread offense is that much more dangerous because of an abundance of team speed.

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"These guys are as fast as anybody we've played and they're way more a spread team than any team we've played," Sanchez said.

One way the Gaels may try to slow Booker T. Washington is by controlling the clock with their big offensive line and running game.

"Obviously, we've always been a run-first team, but at the same time, we're not going to get so conservative that we don't take our shots," Sanchez said. "If we can sustain our running game, that will help our defense."

MORE: Gorman's Cunningham Jr. paving his own path

While the Tornadoes are used to traveling, this still will be the first plane ride for some of their players and the team has never traveled 2,500 miles for a game. Booker T. Washington coach Tim "Ice" Harris said the trip will help his players prepare for college football.

"It really helps in so many ways," Harris said. "This is an experience that these kids gain. They may decide they want to go to college out West. We also view this trip as educational, but our focus is still to go out there and win."

At least in the Super 25 rankings, Booker T. Washington has been the No. 1 team all season. The pressure of being No. 1 is one Harris said his players take seriously.

"With our schedule, every week we have to play at our best," Harris said. "We're going to play the best teams in South Florida. Being in a position where we are No. 1, that adds a little something to it. It's not just winning, you have to win convincingly. The seniors do a great job of really getting on each other to make sure we play at a higher level."

One secret for Booker T. Washington is not falling behind early. The only game the Tornadoes didn't grab the first lead was against Miami Central.

"We practice with a fast tempo every day," Harris said. "It's not something we just try at game time. Even in meetings, we make sure things are moving fast. We're moving in all the directions and all the phases at the same time. When they get to the game, it is second nature to the players, so they start out fast."

No. 17 Ensworth (Nashville) vs. Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville), Friday: The Tigers (5-0) have won 26 in a row and have five consecutive wins against MBA. The Big Red is 6-0 and has shut out two of its last three opponents, but its defense will be tested by Ensworth running back D'Andre Ferby.

No. 27 John Curtis Christian, River Ridge, La., vs. St. Augustine (New Orleans), Friday: The Patriots, who are playing one of the top schedules in the country, really helped their cause with a 38-33 upset of then-No. 18 Edna Karr (New Orleans) last week. St. Augustine is 2-1 with its only loss a 34-24 defeat to Karr two weeks ago. The Purple Knights have had two weeks to prepare for the Patriots. The last time the teams played, John Curtis won 33-0, but that was in 2002.

No. 39 Punahou (Honolulu) vs. St. Louis (Honolulu), Friday: Punahou (6-0) handed St. Louis its first loss last season. To upset Punahou, the Crusaders (5-1) will need to find a way to solve the Buff n' Blue's defense, which is allowing only 4.7 points a game.
 

 

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