Bishop Diego steps up in competition this season as it moves from the Frontier League to the Tri-Valley League. To win a championship, the Cardinals have to go through the likes of Nordhoff, Santa Paula, Oak Park and Carpinteria.
It’s a challenge the Cardinals are looking forward to.
“Our kids are excited,” coach Tom Crawford said. “I feel like we can compete in the Tri-Valley League and I feel this is a good year to make that jump.”
Bishop is loaded with experience. Eight defensive and four offensive starters return from a team that reached the CIF East Valley Division semifinals and went 11-2 last year.
“A lot of those guys haven’t skipped a beat. There’s a lot of continuity and a real knowledge of what we want,” said Crawford.
Linebackers Christian Pearson (5-8, 195) and Thomas Lash (6-1, 185) spearhead a physical defensive group. Nolan Tooley (6-2, 205), John “Cowboy” Samson (5-8 237) are solid at end and tackle, respectively. In the backfield, Troy Skinner brings stability at cornerback and Gabe Molina and Anthony Carter return at safety.
“We think we got guys who are pretty physical and pretty solid there,” said Crawford.
“We’re returning a lot of starters from the past year and we had a really good year on the defensive side of the ball, so it should be really good year with some experience under our belt,” said Skinner. “It looks like we’re going to be holding opponents to very few points this year. That’ll be fun.”
“We’re solid on defense,” added senior Jack Gregson. “We can stop any offense. That’s our strength.”
On offense, Gregson steps into the featured running back role for the Cardinals. He played as a backup for all-leaguer Brandon Gonzalez the last two years.
“This is really Jack’s time to shine,” Crawford said. “When he had opportunities to step in, he was a force. Jack has wonderful explosiveness.”
Gregson will be backed up by Abel Gonzalez, who last season in a JV game rushed for 441 yards.
“He’s a tough runner, too,” Crawford said.
The running backs will be taking handoffs from a new starting quarterback. Molina and Carter are competing for the starting job. Molina backed up senior Nolan Tisdale last year.
Crawford said he’s been pleased with the progress of both players. “It’s a process. We go from a two-year starter in Nolan to guys who are going to have on-the-job training.”
The quarterbacks will have the luxury of working behind a big, experienced offensive line. Four lineman started games last season: Joe Salcedo (6-5 265), Samson, Keegan Araujo (5-11, 220) and Jose Del Campo (6-2, 220). Jack Braniff (6-0, 200) is the newcomer at center.
Salcedo is being recruited by several Division 1 programs.
“He’s related to the Winnewisser clan, so he still has room to grow,” said Crawford, referring to former Bishop stars Christian and Scott Winnewisser. Scott, a standout offensive lineman at Cal Poly, grew to 6-5, 301 and was signed by the New Orleans Saints. Christian was a 6-5, 215-pound tight end at LaVerne College.
Crawford is excited about the experience and the depth of his offensive line.
“The numbers alone help us. It’s been a long time we’ve had 12-13 guys who consider themselves linemen,” he said. “We think we’ll be able to run the ball.”
Gregson is thrilled about the offensive line.
“I’m best friends with all my guys,” he said with a big smile. “Jose, Cowboy, Jack, Keegan and Big Joe, they’re studs. They’re really going to show you something. They’re going to be a force.”
Crawford made it a point to schedule tough pre-league opponents to prepare his team for the more physical demands of the TVL.
The Cardinals’ schedule includes Santa Ynez, Valley Christian of Cerritos and 2011 San Diego Section finalist Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach.
“We tried to prepare these guys by the way we practice and the pre-league schedule,” Crawford said. “We feel we have more depth in the trenches and having the extra bodies to deal with the physical nature of the league is important for us.”
Last Year’s Record: 11-2, CIF-SS East Valley Division semifinalist
This Year’s Schedule: CLICK HERE
Key Returners (Year, Position, Height, Weight): Jack Gregson, Sr., RB/S, 5-9 175, (3-year varsity player); Jose Del Campo, Sr., OT, 6-1, 215, (2-year varsity starter); Troy Skinner, Sr., WR/DB, 5-9 170, (2-year varsity starter); Keegan Araujo, Sr., OL/DL, 6-0 225, (2-year varsity starter); Joe Salcedo, Jr., OL, 6-5, 265 (2-year varsity starter); Anthony Carter, Jr., QB/WR/S, 5-10, 170 (2-year varsity starter); Gabe Molina, Jr., QB/S, 6-2, 175, (2-year varsity starter): Christian Pearson, Jr., ILB/FB, 5-10, 185, (2-year varsity starter); Thomas Lash, Jr. TE/LB, 6-1 180, (2-year varsity starter); Nolan Tooley, Jr. TE/DE, 6-2 205, (2-year varsity starter); John Samson, Jr., OG/DT, 5-8, 225, (2-year varsity starter); Justin Brosnan, Sr. WR/DE, 5-11 205, (2-year varsity starter).
Promising Newcomers (Year, Position, Height, Weight): Aidan Williams, Jr. RB/S 6-0, 192; Abel Gonzalez, Soph RB/LB, 5-11 175; BJ Murillo, Jr. WR/DB, 5-8 160; Jack Braniff, Jr. OL, 6-0 190.
OUTLOOK: Moving to Tri-Valley League which will be more physical and competitive game in and game out added to challenging non-league schedule. Defensive experience bodes well for being competitive in all games and will compensate for some inexperience offensively which is important until offense sorts out and gets that experience. Talented play makers on O, D and special teams make this group dangerous and with roster of 32 (which is most in some years), there is more depth in lines which is critical. Need to remain healthy but this is experienced group overall and one of the most competitive and physical groups we’ve had at Bishop.