No. 1 Sierra Canyon has too many weapons for Bishop

GRANADA HILLS — Bishop Diego needed to play a perfect football game to beat top-seeded and undefeated Sierra Canyon in the CIF East Valley Division football semifinal Friday night at John Elway Stadium.

The Cardinals gave it their best shot, but a few miscues proved to be costly and they fell 42-16 against a high-powered Trailblazers squad that is returning to the division final for the second straight year.

Sierra Canyon (13-0) will get a rematch with Alpha League rival Paraclete next Friday. Paraclete defeated Rim of the World in the other semifinal.

Bishop Diego finishes the year at 11-2.

“I don’t think the score is really indicative of how the game really was,” Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford said. “We make a couple of plays here or there and we don’t make a couple of mistakes, I think we got a shot of pulling that game out. In that regard, I’m disappointed we lost, but very proud the way they played.”

Bishop Diego trailed by just a touchdown (23-16) after quarterback Nolan Tisdale hit Nic Mon over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 6:46 left in the third quarter.

The Cardinals then held the multi-faceted Sierra Canyon offense to three-and-out on its next series. Then came the turning point — Bishop misplayed punt return, which the Trailblazers recovered at the Bishop 32.

Bishop’s defense and a holding penalty kept the Trailblazers out of the end zone. But Noah Zgrablich booted a 31-yard field goal to make it 26-16.

Zgrablich would deliver again for Sierra Canyon after another Bishop mistake — this one coming on a fourth-and-1 at its 44. The Cardinals were going for it but an illegal procedure call forced them to punt.

“They called Nolan for bobbing his head as he was calling the cadence. That was illegal procedure,” Crawford explained. “We were going to try to draw them offsides. I was going to call time out and make a decision to actually go for it or not. That (penalty) obviously took it out of my hands.”

Sierra Canyon running back Xavier Menifield broke off a 45-yard run on first down and. following a sack and a holding penalty, 6-4 quarterback Tyler Stewart had a 27-yard run on third down to put the ball at the 3. Zgrablich hit his field goal from 20 yards for a 29-16 lead early in the fourth quarter

The Trailblazers put the game out of reach by scoring two touchdowns in a one-minute span after a Bishop fumble and pass interception.

Bishop Diego started the game on a high note. It sacked Stewart for a 16-yard loss and forced the Trailblazers to punt on their first possession.

Tisdale combined with Sam Kwock on completions of 14 and 17 yards and hit Reese Moulton for 12 yards to move the Cardinals down to the Sierra Canyon 1. On fourth and goal, the Cardinals were hit with a delay of game penalty, and they had to settle for a field goal attempt. Justin Brosnan’s 22-yard kick was wide left.

But Bishop showed they could play with the senior-laden Trailblazers.

“Watching them on film, the one thing that stood out was their kids just fought hard,” Sierra Canyon coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “They played hard. That’s one heck of a football. team; that’s a well-coached team. They definitely gave us a battle.”

Bishop’s opening drive seemed to wake up Sierra Canyon, as it rolled down the field on its next possession behind the running of Danny Jordan and Menifield. The fleet-footed Jordan broke off a pair of 21-yard runs and the hard-charging Menifield finished the 80-yard drive with a 25-yard scoring jaunt to put the Trailblazers up 7-0 with 1:10 left in the first quarter.

“We got a great O line and two very special backs,” Ellinghouse said. “From of the flow of the game early, I could tell we needed to lean on that team and keep the ball on the ground. I think our running game was the reason we were successful.”

Bishop, however, would not back down. The Cardinals got right back in the game on a 54-yard Tisdale pass over the middle to Kwock, who blew past defenders for the tying touchdown with 16 seconds remaining in the quarter.

“I got a lot respect for that kid. He plays at full speed. I think everything he does is at full speed,” Ellinghouse said of Kwock. “There are some special football players on that team. They have a lot of sophomores on their roster, so they’re going to be a force in the division for the next couple of years.”

Sierra Canyon regained the lead after a short Bishop punt. Starting at his 36, Stewart —who is being recruited by several Division 1 schools — threw to tight end Brian Tucker, who rambled for 32 yards. Using his deft ballhandling skills, Stewart led the Trailblazers down the field and Menifield finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. That gave them a 13-7 lead.

“I thought we did a nice job against the pass and put pressure on the quarterback,” Crawford said. “The problem they create is they’re so balanced, they’re not one dimensional at all.”

Sierra Canyon moved down the field again, but Bishop’s defense came up big and stopped the Trailblazers on third-and-3 from the 17. Zgrablich booted a 35-yard field to make a 16-7 game.

The Cardinals went to the air on their next possession and Tisdale hit Nic Mon for 14 yards and Kwock on plays of 4 and 14 yards, putting them in field goal range with time running out in the second quarter. Brosnan came through and converted from 30 yards on the last play of the half, cutting the deficit to 16-10.

Bishop got the ball to start the second half and was faced with a fourth-and-1 at its 36. Punter Anthony Carter faked the kick and gained three yards to get the first down.

Faced with another fourth-and-1 situation from the 48, Carter tried another fake punt play. Sierra Canyon was not fooled and it dropped him for a 3-yard loss.

Stewart made the Cardinals pay by hitting 6-4 wide receiver Reggie Prince on a 45-yard touchdown play on first down to put the Trailblazers up 23-10.

Thanks to Bishop’s defense, Stewart didn’t have a big night passing. He completed 6 of 15 passes for 120 yards. Sierra Canyon’s running combo of Jordan and Menifield did most of the damage. Jordan gained 151 yards on 17 carries and Menifield had 141 on 15 rushes.

For Bishop, Tisdale completed 15 of 26 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Kwock caught four passes for 89 yards.

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