Football preview: Bishop Diego has makings of a title contender

 

With an experienced and talented senior class and an athletic group of underclassmen, Bishop Diego has the right ingredients to be a serious contender for a championship this year.

“We’ve got a talented club,” coach Tom Crawford said. “It’s young, and that’s the interesting thing for us. Out of the 29 to 30 players we’re carrying on the varsity, we’re dealing with 11 sophomores that will play at the varsity level. So, while they’re athletic, there’s going to be the growing pains associated with their experience.”

The fortunate thing going for the Cardinals is there’s enough seniors to carry the load as the sophomores learn the ropes.

Leading the senior group on offense are quarterback Nolan Tisdale and running back Brandon Gonzalez, both first-team All-Frontier League selections as juniors.

Gonzalez is a punishing runner who is tough to bring down.

Running back Brandon Gonzalez is a powerful running back for the Cardinals. (Photos by Vince Agapito)

“He’s just hard-nosed,” Crawford said. “He’s physically strong but also mentally tough. In my view, he’s a little bit of a throw-back type of runner. He’s a north-south sort of kid as opposed to the scatbacks we see on the highlight tapes.”

Gonzalez says he feels good about this year’s team.

“We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of juniors and sophomores, but our senior corps is really strong,” he said.

Tisdale knows he can always rely on Gonzalez to get yards.

“Yeah, I trust him a lot,” he said.

Tisdale earned the trust of his teammates last season after replacing the injured Andrew Saucier and leading the Cardinals to the playoffs.

“Nolan is at a level where he has a real stability to the way he plays,” Crawford said. “This summer he was really good in the passing league play we did and he’s got the confidence of the kids, which is also pretty critical.

“I think he’s a kid who has that inner strength you really want in pressure situations, and I think he’ll be even better this year.”

Said Gonzalez: “I can’t ask for a better quarterback. He’s good, confident; he won’t back down from anybody.”

Tisdale has a lot of weapons to make Bishop’s offense go.

At receiver, lightening-quick Sam Kwock leads an experienced group that includes Nic Mon and Paul Garcia.

“The talent is really good,” he said. “All the senior skill positions are coming back; I got a lot of weapons out there I can utilize.”

Tisdale also has an experienced offensive line, led by center Michael Winnewisser, who played most of last season with a broken hand and snapped the ball with his opposite hand

Strong guard Keegan Araujo returns after a solid sophomore season. “He may be the strongest kid on the squad,” Crawford said.

Tom Renick is back for this third year on the varsity at the tackle position.

“We got four guys who are pretty even that can play the other spots for us,” said Crawford.

As good as the Cardinals’ offense looks, the defense might be better.

The entire secondary returns and there are veteran players in other positions.

Garcia, Mon, Troy Skinner and Gabe Molina make up the defensive backfield.

“We have a lot of experience there,” said Crawford.

Garcia will be out a few games while recovery from a foot injury.

At linebacker, Renick makes the switch from defensive end to an inside position. He’ll be joined by sophomores Nolan Tooley and Christian Pearson. Thomas Lash, another sophomore, and returning starter Jack Gregson, a junior, give Bishop lots of speed on the outside.

Reece Moulton and Winnewisser lead the defensive front.

The Cardinals qualified for the playoffs last year, and Crawford said the players should expect to play in the postseason every year.

“We established what has been our mantra: You should expect to be in the playoffs,” he said. “I think with this group of kids, they realize there’s enough depth and talent that it’s really important to invest. We’ve had great commitment through the summer and through fall camp we’ve had commitment. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we stay healthy.”

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