Bishop Diego gets another shot at Sierra Canyon in semis

Bishop Diego gets a rematch with Sierra Canyon in the semifinals of the CIF East Valley Division football playoffs on Friday night.

The Cardinals lost to top-seeded Sierra Canyon, 48-17, in the first round last year.

The teams are tentatively scheduled to play at Granada Hills High, which Sierra Canyon uses as its home field.

The trip won’t be half as long as the one the Cardinals just made to Twentynine Palms.

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“It was a very long day for our guys — and coaches — but it is nice to get to the semis,” Bishop coach Tom Crawford said. “I’m hopeful our guys get rested before Monday, as we arrived home after 2:30 in the morning.”

And, they arrived home victorious, winning 21-14.

It wasn’t a pretty win. The Cardinals committed four turnovers (2 interceptions, 2 fumbles) and Twentynine Palms turned the ball over three times.

The big difference was Bishop Diego was able to convert the turnovers into points, while its defense denied Twentynine Palms from capitalizing.

“I told our guys afterwards that when you get to the playoffs where teams are solid, the atmosphere intense, and no one wants to lose, that sometimes wins aren’t pretty — and I think that aptly describes the game,” Crawford said.

A bad snap on a punt led to a 22-yard field goal by Justin Brosnan in the first quarter. A fumble at midfield contributed to a 47-yard Brosnan field goal in the second quarter.

Sophomore linebacker Adrian Solis knocked down a lateral and Reese Moulton picked up the ball and returned it inside the Twentynine Palms’ 5. A few plays later, Brandon Gonzalez scored.

The Cardinals led 19-0 late in the third quarter.

“Until the last quarter, our defense played real well again and Twentynine Palms really never threatened at all in the first half — they got to just past midfield on its first drive but we stopped them on a fake punt and they may have crossed midfield in the second quarter once but then fumbled,” said Crawford.

“Christian Pearson at middle linebacker had an excellent game and Adrian Solis and Jack Gregson at outside linebackers both made big plays,” he added.

Gregson read a screen pass and tackled the receiver in the end zone for a safety in the third quarter. That play followed an Anthony Carter punt that was downed around the 7-yard line.

Moulton had a big night at defensive end, knocking down two passes. As a receiver, he caught a fourth-down TD pass from Nolan Tisdale just before half to increase the score to 19-0.

Twentynine Palms made it interesting by scoring twice in the fourth quarter. The first TD drive was aided by several Bishop penalties and the second was a long, “impressive,” time-consuming drive. The Wildcats scored with a minute left in the game.

“I say impressive because they must have converted four 4th-and-medium-to-long downs on the drive to keep it alive.  So, in that regard, we could have done better in getting them off the field and not adding suspense while making the score look as close,” said Crawford.

The coach said game was “probably the worst execution we have had offensively in a long while, and the kids would be the first to acknowledge it. Defensively, we handled their size well and took advantage of the fact that they were struggling to throw the ball effectively — until their final fourth-quarter drive.”

Now, they get a shot at the division’s No. 1 seed.

“Obviously, playing Sierra Canyon is a HUGE challenge as they and Paraclete are certainly the class of the division,” Crawford said.

Sierra Canyon is the No. 1-ranked Small School in the State and is predicted to represent Southern California in the State Bowl Games for Division IV.

“Personally, Sierra Canyon reminds me of Oaks Christian when it first came into the Tri-Valley League — a relatively small school with a roster of athletes with size and speed,” Crawford said.

Quarterback Tyler Stewart is the team leader. The 6-4, 210-pound senior is being recruited by several Division 1 schools.

“They handled us last year fairly easily and only lost two kids off their starting roster from last year’s squad, so they are better than last year and certainly a confident and talented bunch,” Crawford said. “We also think we are improved over last year’s squad. The reality is that we can only focus on controlling and improving our own execution and preparation. So, to give ourselves a chance, we have to play much better than we did Friday night.”