On the second play of his high school career, Bishop Gorman freshman Zachariah Branch took a short screen pass and raced 45 yards for a touchdown. Later in the first quarter Friday against Orem of Utah, he caught another touchdown, this time hauling in a ball that was significantly over his head in the corner of the end zone.
Gorman's rise to national prominence over the past decade has featured many types of standouts — a national player of the year, a handful of five-star recruits and all-Americans, and many others who were solid high school players.
Only a handful of times, namely in 2009 with quarterback Anu Solomon and wide receiver Ryan Smith, have the Gaels had a freshman be this dominant. Welcome to the show, Zachariah.
“People were probably like, ‘Wow, he just graduated from junior high school,’” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said.
Gorman scored four unanswered touchdowns to open the game against Orem in a 40-7 victory. While its offense sputtered at times in the second and third quarters, there were plenty of flashes of strong play for the top-20 ranked team.
That starts with Branch, who had about 55 receiving yards.
“You just have to put the hard work in to get the results out,” Branch said. “I felt like we were mentally prepared for the game. We just stuck to the game plan and came out with a (win).”
He wasn’t the only underclassman with a touchdown. Sophomore defensive back Fabian Ross had a 25-yard interception return for a score, and sophomore Cam’ron Barfield had a pair of touchdowns, including breaking free for a 60-yard score in the fourth quarter.
“Football is an evolution,” Sanchez said. “How do you (develop) from Week 1 until the end of the season. There’s a lot from tonight we can build on.”
Gorman led 27-0 nine minutes into the game but didn’t score again until the fourth quarter. Orem, after all, is the reigning Utah state champion, and the first of four quality out-of-state foes on the Gorman schedule to open the season. It’s a similar strategy as past seasons for the Gaels, who challenge a who’s who of national opponents to gain experience to defend their state championship.
The philosophy has worked, as Gorman is the 10-time defending state champion. And in the next three weeks, they will continue to develop the likes of Branch, Ross and Barfield in continuing the state’s best football dynasty.