I arrived back in California late Monday night and peeled another cotton shirt off my back. Four days of desert – wasn't this supposed to be a dry heat? – temperatures had taken its toll and drenched some clothes.
I was exhausted.
It wasn't so much the triple-digit heat that had zapped my energy, but the back-to-back double dip featuring four of the nation's top high school football teams had worn me down. I needed - oh no don't say it - another TV timeout.
The games were similar. Host Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.)
raced to a 27-8 lead and held on against an absolutely loaded Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
squad to win 27-22. And the following night at Phoenix College, fourth-ranked Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
was pretty much in control most of the night but needed an impressive late drive to finally put away Brophy College Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.)
The winners in both games would have won more convincingly without unnecessary turnovers. But hey, it's August. Prep football shouldn't even be played until Labor Day anyway. Why all this mid-summer football? Isn't this a time for getting in shape. Inter-squad scrimmages? Instead we have these key inter state battles with national television cameras and bright shimmering hot spot lights.
And that's another thing. Thanks to said TV timeouts, these were both three-hour affairs. For 48 minutes of true action. That's 2 hours and 12 minutes of, in this case, sweating.
Ah, I'm not complaining. I loved every minute frankly. Football season is here and everything from here on out will seem like a cool ocean breeze. Until we go to Florida.
Here are 10 more takes from desert: 1. Anu Solomon is all grown up.
I recall interviewing the lad as a squatty but courageous and gutty freshman following a loss to Brophy Prep in the Sollenberger Classic at University of Phoenix Stadium. Three years later, taller, leaner and much more confident, he looks like one of the top quarterbacks in the country even though he's on few top recruiting lists. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior was the difference in Gorman's 27-22 win over Our Lady of Good Counsel, completing 13 of 17 for 243 yards and accounting for all four touchdowns. Solomon is 45-2 as a starter and has thrown 107 touchdowns in the time and only 13 interceptions. "Too much is made out of players wearing shorts and shirts," Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. "Real football players do it out on the field and Anu is more than a proven commodity."
2. Good Counsel's Dorian O'Daniel is a man.
OK, so he rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns and was generally impossible to bring down one-on-one. What I liked most about the 6-foot-2, 205-pound back was his attitude after the game. He was screaming at his team to soak in the pain from the defeat. He wasn't pointing fingers, but just being a strong leader.
3. Gorman will be a national power for the foreseeable future.
Sanchez is the perfect fit for the Gaels. He's strong, charismatic, fearless and organized. He comes from humble beginnings so he takes none of the massive gifts presented by the Fertitta family for granted. Sanchez even lost 15 pounds during the off-season and looks leaner and better than he has in years. He's here to stay and with the second-to-none facilities, a fantastic talent base and tremendous community built around the school, he and the Gaels are built for the long haul. If they don't win a mythical national title this year, it's not far off. 4. Nathan Starks will play on Sundays.
Hate to put pressure on kids at such early age, but Gorman's 6-foot, 210-pound junior back has every tool imaginable. We heard from good sources that he's the No. 1 player on the board for the University of Texas and Nebraska from the class of 2014. 5. Good Counsel won't lose the rest of the season.
Let's face it. Traveling cross-country to Sin City and all the distractions isn't easy. The Falcons got behind 27-8 and could have folded, but just kept hanging around and clawing and scratching and actually was within striking distance after O'Daniel's third TD. Coach Bob Milloy made no excuses after. He let the loss sink in and with upwards of 14 Division I players, we imagine they'll roll right through their schedule starting with a previously nationally-ranked Gilman team, which is also smarting after being hammered by Archbishop Moeller.
6. I believe Harry Welch now.
I adore the Santa Margarita coach. Who wouldn't? Warm, charming, charismatic. But when he talks affectionately of his players, you take with a grain a salt. Nice man. Sees the big picture. So when he said last year after the state-championship game he'd take quarterback Johnny Stanton
over any quarterback in the country, I thought "loyal man." After watching him take over a second straight nationally recognized game largely by himself, I'm thinking Welch isn't offering the company line. Stanton, much like Solomon for Gorman, accounted for all four touchdowns, threw for more than 200 yards, ran for 99 more. Beyond his Tim Tebow brawn – 6-2, 225 – and tenacity, I think Stanton's calm and confidence sets him apart. The players believe in him. I was on the Eagles' sideline most of the night and even with all that went wrong – four turnovers, 11 penalties – there wasn't much yelling, screaming and certainly no panic. Reflection of Welch and Stanton.
7. Brophy will win state title.
Like Good Counsel, Brophy will use the pain from the defeat to fuel it the rest of the season. Tough, tough kids to endure their crazy three games in 10-day early schedule and hang with one of the top five teams in the country. The one type of team the Broncos didn't want to see in the middle of that 10 days was exactly what Santa Margarita is. Big and physical. Yet Brophy was within a touchdown with 6:44 remaining. Credit to coach Scooter Molander and staff and some tough-minded players. Expect Washington State-bound quarterback Tyler Bruggman, with a host of receivers, to throw at least 30 touchdowns this season.
8. Brophy's Devon Allen is worth price of admission and at least three hot dogs.
Every time Allen got the ball, the excitement of a packed Phoenix College Stadium crowd was palpable. A 10.5 100-meter sprinter, Allen isn't looking for the first-down markers in the open field, he's looking to score. I bet by the end of the season he gets there 30 times via either reception, run or return.
9. Santa Margarita's weak link isn't nearly weak.
The only concern most had about the Eagles coming in was on defense, but they were good in all facets, especially against the run as Brophy finished with just 50 yards on less than three yards per carry. "We played with a little chip on our shoulder," 6-4, 220-pound junior defensive end Taylor Prenevost
said. "We had a little something to prove and I think we did for at least one week. We can play better."10. Home cheering sections earn standing ovation.
I can't recall two more raucous, lively and packed student bodies than those at Bishop Gorman and Brophy Prep. Gorman sported its ocean of orange and Brophy a sea of red. Both stadiums just wreaked of healthy fun and enthusiasm – giving off a college atmosphere.
E-mail senior writer and columnist Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MitchMashMax.