Friday Night Lights: Bishop ready for some smash-mouth football

Playoff football can sometimes mean playing a no-nonsense, grind-it-out game.

Village Christian, Bishop Diego’s quarterfinal opponent in Friday’s 7 p.m. CIF Northwest Division quarterfinal at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, plays that brand of football.

“Yes, definitely, an old-style smash-mouth team that prefers to grind out first downs and run the clock” Bishop coach Tom Crawford said of the 7-4 Crusaders.

The 11-0 and top-seeded Cardinals will need to play physical against a Village Christian that likes to pound the ball with 212-pound tailback John Amadeo. He carried the ball 33 times for 202 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 38-21 first-round win over Bishop Montgomery.

“He is big, solid and quick, and the fullback is their second leading rusher, so they count on those two guys to grind out first downs,” said Crawford.

Village Christian quarterback Jesse Hanckel passes enough to keep defenses honest. The sophomore has thrown for 1,310 yards and 10 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He is coached by former NFL quarterback Jay Schroeder.

The one-two punch of Hanckel and Amadeo have helped the Crusaders win six of their last seven games and average around 35 points a game.

Crawford doesn’t expect Village Christian to alter what’s made them successful.

“I think their game plan has to be what has gotten them here to date,” he said.

Defensively, Crawford said Village Christian is “very oriented to stopping the ground game, willing to put all 11 guys within seven yards of the line of scrimmage and pressure the ball.”

In defending against the pass, he said the Crusaders trust their defensive backs to win the one-on-one battles with receivers.

“I don’t think they’ll change their formula for us,” Crawford said. “We need to complete some passes and make them pay for their willingness to play without a safety, and we must force their running backs outside, where we believe our speed will help us.”

The Cardinals got a boost last week when injured players Gabe Molina, Adrian Solis and Jack Gregson returned to the field.

The winner of this game plays the winner of the North Torrance at Gladstone game in the semifinals next Friday.

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