Defense, Gonzalez carry Bishop Diego over Carpinteria

Ian Craddock’s deft ball handling in Carpinteria’s option offense posed ?a difficult assignment for the Bishop Diego defense in Saturday’s battle of unbeatens in the Tri-Valley League football opener.

The CIF Northwest Division top-ranked Cardinals rose to the challenge, shutting down the Warriors’ attack and forcing three second-half turnovers in a 24-6 victory before nearly 7,000 fans at La Playa Stadium.

Bishop Diego improves to 6-0 while fourth-ranked Carpinteria suffers its first loss and is 6-1.

Abel Gonzalez paced the Bishop Diego offense with 124 yards rushing on 12 carries and two touchdowns. He also made a clutch 22-yard reception on a third and seven that led to Bishop Diego’s first touchdown. The score rallied the Cardinals from a 6-0 deficit in the second quarter.

Bishop Diego Abel Gonzalez breaks a tackle on his 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Gonzalez won the G.I. Forum Award as the game's MVP.

Bishop Diego Abel Gonzalez breaks a tackle on his 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Gonzalez won the G.I. Forum Award as the game’s MVP. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports)

Gonzalez was named winner of the G.I Forum Award, presented to the MVP of the rivalry game.

Gonzalez also played a part in the Cardinals’ sterling defensive performance. With the score 17-6 and Carpinteria on the move, he ?picked up a fumble and returned it to the 8-yard line. Bishop would fumble the ball back, but the defense stepped up big again with John Samson picking off a screen pass. The interception was set up by pressure on Craddock from defensive end Nolan Tooley.

“We just did our best,” said Tooley, who had two sacks and forced Craddock out of the pocket several times.

“The defense played a big part of this,” Gonzalez said. “Everything from reading the option to covering them on pass plays, it was just good defense. The defense is a strong part of this team.”

The Cardinals limited Craddock to 53 yards rushing and 82 yards passing. He threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Peter Ramos in the second quarter.

Abel Gonzalez, right, and Aidan Williams celebrate after a Gonzalez touchdown

Abel Gonzalez, right, and Aidan Williams celebrate after a Gonzalez touchdown

“I thought we were a little ragged at the start,” Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford said. “In order to defend them, you got to play really sound assignment football with respect to the option and the things they like to do. I thought ?we made a couple of mistakes early on, but when we got into a groove a little bit, guys were very disciplined in the way they played. I think that was the key for us defensively.”

Crawford said the pressure from Tooley played a big part in containing Craddock.

“Nolan, I thought, all night was somebody they felt they had to deal with and get an extra body on,” Crawford said. “We flushed Ian from the pocket several times, but he’s such a good athlete that several times we thought we had him he broke some long runs. Putting pressure on him and not letting him sit back and feel comfortable throwng the ball down the field deep was something we hoped to do, and I thought we accomplished that.”

Craddock directed a 64-yard drive to put Carpinteria on the board first in the second quarter. On the touchdown play, he scrambled away from Bishop Diego defenders and fired a bullet to Ramos in the end zone. The Warriors missed the PAT kick.

But Carpinteria couldn’t get a rhythm going on offense for the rest of the game.

“We did some uncharacteristic things,” Carpinteria coach Ben Hallock said. “One, big penalties put us at first-and-long several times. We haven’t had problems with penalties. The other was mishandling the ball? balls going on the ground, either losing them or losing yardage on it. That was tough. We didn’t handle their pressure from the outside very well and that kept Ian under pressure.”

Hallock also noted his team’s inability to follow up after making a big play, be it a fourth-down conversion, a successful faked punt or recovering a fumble, was uncharacteristic.

“We’ve been able to, when we make a fourth-down conversion, go for the fake punt, whatever it is, ?put the ball into the end zone; we’ve been able to come back and make the play. Tonight, we weren’t able to do that,” said Hallock.

A sack by Tooley forced the Warriors to punt the ball. Bishop started a drive from the 12-yard line and marched down the field to score the tying touchdown. After hitting ?Gonzalez for a 22-yard gain on third and seven, quarterback Gabe Molina rolled out and found a wide-open Thomas Lash in the end zone for the tying score. Santiago Bollag kicked the PAT to put the Cardinals ahead 7-6 at the 2:21 mark of the second quarter.

Carpinteria went three and out on its next series and punted the ball back to the Cardinals. Mixing up runs and passes, they drove from their 22 to the Warriors’ 13. After two incomplete passes, Bollag came in and booted a 29-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter for a 10-6 lead.

Bishop capitalized on a Carpinteria fumble at midfield to take a 17-6 lead. Gonzalez broke off the left side, shed a couple of tacklers and rambled 33-yards for the touchdown.

Samson’s interception in the fourth quarter set up the final touchdown. From the 33-yard line, the Cardinals needed four plays to score. Gonzalez ran 5 yards for the touchdown with 2:55 left in the game.

It was a big night for Cardinals’ center Jack Braniff. He anchored the offensive line and was named the school’s Homecoming King.

On the play of the offensive line, Braniff said: “We’ve been working really hard all season and you can see it pays off. ?We all know each other really well and we just pounded the ball. That’s all that matters.”

On being named the Homecoming King, he said: “That’s pretty cool, but beating?Carp,?that’s what really matters.”