The big-play ability of the speedy Bishop Diego football team was on full display Saturday night in its 55-13 blowout of Cerritos-Valley Christian at La Playa Stadium.
The Cardinals, playing their first game as the No. 1-ranked team in the CIF-SS Northwest Division, scored on the ground, through the air, on a kickoff return and on a fumble return to improve to 3-0.
Not only did the Cardinals score in a variety of ways, they cleaned up mistakes they made in last week’s win over Santa Ynez.
“I think a lot of the raggedness last week we kind of got through; I thought we were pretty sharp, Bishop coach Tom Crawford said. “Honestly, I thought we played a very complete game. In all facets I thought we played really well and the kids were sharp. We played the full 48 minutes, which was nice.”
Sophomore running back Abel Gonzalez set the tone for the offense, rushing for 173 yards on 22 carries in 2 1/2 quarters of play. Gonzalez started in place of senior Jack Gregson, who is sidelined with a knee injury. He was the workhorse in the first half, carrying the ball 18 times.
“Abel, for a sophomore kid, is pretty darn impressive,” said Crawford. “I’m not surprised he stepped up the way he did.”
“I had to step up now that Jack Gregson is out,” Gonzalez said. “I look up to him; he’s a great guy and he taught me everything I need to know to this point.”
Like a grateful running back, Gonzalez acknowledged the play of the offensive line.
“There were great holes. I love that line, dude. I run behind them all night,” he said.
The speed of Gonzalez and the entire Bishop attack wore down Valley Christian (1-1).
Quarterback Gabe Molina had a solid night, throwing four touchdown passes and completing 5 of 6 passes for 103 yards.
On special teams, Jacob Salcedo showed off his speed in returning a kickoff 93 yards for a score.
The defense also got into the scoring act. The linebacker tandem of Christian Pearson and Thomas Lash converged on talented Valley Christian quarterback Patrick Avila, with Pearson forcing a fumble and Lash scooping it up and returning it 66 yards for the final touchdown of the night.
“We actually called a blitz on that play,” Lash explained. “The linemen’s splits were really wide and Christian got the hit as the quarterback was handing off and I just picked it up and went (for the end zone). A shoutout to Christian for that play.”
Also on defense, cornerback Troy Skinner picked off two passes.
“It was fun,” said Skinner. “We prepare all week, we knew they were going to come out and throw the ball. I was just put in good position by the coaches and luckily made some plays.”
“I think we did what we wanted to defensively, which was make the quarterback uncomfortable,” said Crawford.
Gonzalez had his number called seven times on the first touchdown drive, which he finished with a 6-yard run.
After a Valley Christian penalty on the ensuing kickoff, the Cardinals surprised the Crusaders with an onsides kick. Kicker Justin Brosnan recovered the ball at the 50-yard line. On first down, Gonzalez bolted for 21 yards, and two players later Molina tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Nolan Tooley. Tooley also caught a two-polnt conversion pass from Anthony Carter for a 14-0 at the 5:14 mark of the first quarter.
When Valley Christian finally got the ball it was stopped on a fourth-and-1 as Pearson penetrated the line and tackled the running back for a loss.
The Cardinal put a big rush on Avila and he was picked off by Skinner at the Valley Christian 49. That set up the third touchdown: a 10-yard Molina pass to a diving Lash at 2:11 of the second quarter. Brosnan’s PAT made it 21-0.
Aidan Williams made the big plays on the Cardinals’ first possession of the second half. First, he busted through the VC defense for a 40-yard run and caught a 6-yard scoring strike from Molina. A fumbled snapped on the PAT left the score at 27-0.
Avila got hot on Valley Christian’s next possession. He completed passes of 20, 20 and 13 yards and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run.
Salcedo responded on the kickoff, running up the left sideline and then cutting inside for a 93-yard return.
Valley Christian’s sure-handed wide receiver Brandon Bynum made a spectacular catch of a 9-yard Avila pass to make it a 34-13 game with 3:20 to go in the third quarter.
Bishop came back with a quick response. On first down, Carter spun out of jersey grab and sprinted 47 yards for a touchdown.
After Brosnan recovered a fumble by Avila, BJ Murillo showed off his speed, taking a Molina pass and rambling 45 yards for a score.
Lash’s fumble return completed the scoring.
Valley Christian…0 0 13 0 — 13
Bishop Diego…14 7 20 14 — 55
B—A. Gonzalez 6 run (kick failed)
B—Tooley 35 pass from Molina (Tooley pass from Carter)
B—Lash 10 pass from Molina (Brosnan kick)
B—Williams 10 pass from Molina (bad snap on PAT kick)
VC—Avila 1 run (Bestian kick)
B—Jacob Salcedo 93 kickoff return (Brosnan kick)
VC—Bynum 9 pass from Avila (kick blocked)
B—Carter 47 run (Brosnan kick)
B—Murillo 45 pass from Molina (Brosnan kick)
B—Lash 35 fumble return (Brosnan kick)