Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023 | 2:04 a.m.
Rain the size of hail is pouring with an hour before kickoff at Fertitta Field. Winds are ripping through the stadium. The DJ plays “Purple Rain” by Prince and “Blame It On the Rain” by Milli Vanilli.
The minutes tick by, inching closer to the 7 p.m. kickoff between No. 2 Bishop Gorman and No. 6 Miami Central (FL). Neither team is on the field warming up. The field, drenched and deemed unsafe by the naked eye, is nowhere near ready.
At 8 p.m., teams begin bringing hydration stations and training equipment to the sidelines as the rain continues to pour. Somehow, at 8:30 p.m., there would be a game played.
The end result was one of the more memorable Bishop Gorman games played in recent memory.
Gaels running back/tight end Elija Lofton scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 24 seconds remaining, and Bishop Gorman held on for a 39-35 win over Miami Central on Friday to give the Gaels a strong case to become the No. 1 team in the country.
“We didn’t know when we were going to start,” said Bishop Gorman quarterback Micah Alejado. “We’re just chilling, talking to each other, having simple conversations, not worrying about it too much.”
At around 2 p.m., the Gaels had Mass on campus. The first round of rain started sprinkling around the Valley. As they wrapped up and went back to the football complex, the team walked through the rain, completely drenched.
The washers and dryers were ready for the rain-soaked clothes. Extra clothes were available. The team had its pre-game meal. The team’s moms were ready at a moment’s notice to help with whatever was needed.
“We were prepared,” coach Brent Browner said. “It’s a methodical process every time getting from Mass to (the complex), let alone all the things that go on in-between.”
When the 90-minute delay ended, the rain was suddenly gone. From the opening kick, Bishop Gorman — as Coach Browner said — came prepared.
The Gaels scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, two of them on runs from Lofton. He scored on a 1-yard run after an opening drive that took 6:56 off the clock for a 7-0 lead. The following drive after Audric Harris’ 31-yard touchdown gave Gorman a 14-7 lead, Lofton barreled his way through multiple Miami defenders and dragged one more into the end zone for a 10-yard score and a 21-7 lead.
Miami Central took the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, then opened the second half with a score to tie it 21-21.
After exchanging touchdowns the next four drives and Miami Central taking a 35-33 lead, the Gaels were in Miami territory with the threat of taking the lead. But Alejado, who had played a mistake-free game to that point, fumbled on third down and turned it over.
“Micah, yeah, he fumbled. It happens,” Browner said.
Miami Central backup quarterback JC Evans completed a 40-yard pass on 3rd and 16 to put the road team in field goal range, but had to settle for a 53-yard field goal on the wet turf. The kick was short, giving Alejado a chance at redemption with 1:31 left.
“I wasn’t even worried about,” Lofton said of Miami kicking the field goal. “I was worried about going to score.”
The senior quarterback put the Gaels in enemy territory, then found Harris for a 33-yard completion to the 1-yard line, capped by Lofton’s fourth touchdown with 24 seconds remaining for the 39-35 lead.
“He’s got the ball, a minute something,” Browner said. “That drill right there? We’ve been doing that since March.”
The ensuing kickoff went straight right and nearly 12 rows into the stands, giving Miami Central the ball at the Bishop Gorman 40.
But the Gaels held with an interception on fourth down to secure the memorable victory.
As the teams gathered for handshakes at midfield, splashes of water were still coming out of the turf with each step.
Browner wanted to make sure he gave all credit to the referees for staying late and having a quick turnaround, a 5 a.m. flight, to officiate college football games on Saturday.
“I’ve got to give my hats off to those refs,” he said. “They walked in and were on board. They’re the reason why the game happened. They could’ve easily said, ‘it’s too late. We’ve got to go.'”
The three-time national champions have let it be known they’ll be challenging for a fourth. No. 1 Mater Dei is idle this week, which could prompt a conversation of Bishop Gorman jumping to the top spot.
That’s not the important part for the Gaels. They begin league play next week with a home game against Centennial, beginning the quest for another state title.
For at least a few days, they’ll gladly remember this one.
“Don’t stop here,” Alejado said. “We’ve got a long season ahead of us.”