Mistakes cost Bishop in 20-17 loss to Nordhoff

OJAI — Bishop Diego’s football team experienced some unusual things the day after Halloween.

The Cardinals lost an apparent go-ahead touchdown when officials ruled they fumbled in the end zone. And, they committed three other turnovers in a 20-17 loss to Nordhoff in a Tri-Valley League game on Friday night at Ojai Valley Community Stadium.

“I’m not sure we got a lot of breaks, but in a tight game you can’t make mistakes,” Bishop coach Tom Crawford said. “For the second game in a row, we didn’t win the turnover battle and that turns out to be the difference again.”

The second straight loss leaves Bishop as the third-place team in the rugged TVL with a 2-2 record. Nordhoff is in second place at 2-1 (8-1 overall) and clinches an automatic playoff berth in the CIF Northwest Division. The Rangers lost to Bishop last year and went on to win the CIF Northwest title.

Bishop (7-2) is expected to receive one of the two at-large berths available in the division.

The Cardinals scored on their first possession Friday, with Santiago Bollag kicking a 37-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Nordhoff took a 7-3 lead when Brandon Wadsworth took a handoff and raced around left end for a 32-yard touchdown run.

On Bishop’s next possession, quarterback Gabe Molina picked up 25 yards on an option keeper. On first down, quarterback Anthony Carter broke through the line for an apparent 25-yard scoring run.

Then things got crazy. Carter appeared to have crossed the goal-line before the ball was knocked out of his hands by Nordhoff defensive back Nick Sterling. An alert Baylee Rogers of the Rangers recovered the ball in the end zone. Two officials conferred and ruled the play a fumble and a touchback.

The Bishop Diego coaching staff complained, but the call stood.

“We drove the ball well and were right on the doorstep, and you don’t put points on the board, that’s huge,” said Crawford. “In a game you lose by three, that’s magnified. That said, those things happen in a game and you have to respond to it. Our kids kept playing hard and we fell short.”

Nordhoff coach Tony Henney called the fumble a “huge play” in the game. “We tell our kids all of the time there are probably going to be six plays that are going to decide the game,” he said. “You don’t know when they’re going to happen, but that was one of them.”

The Cardinals got the ball back when linebacker Christian Pearson recovered a fumble. They advanced to the Nordhoff 6 before things went haywire. A bad pitchout resulted in a 17-yard loss and Molina was sacked for a 2-yard loss. Faced with a fourth-and-goal from the 25, they gained only six yards on a pass play.

Bishop was the victim of another strange play on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Running back Abel Gonzalez appeared to be stopped by the Nordhoff defense when the ball came loose. The play was ruled a fumble and the Rangers linebacker Koby Welch recovered the ball at the Bishop 21.

Again, the Bishop sidelined couldn’t believe it.

The Rangers capitalized on the turnover with a 32-yard field goal by Cooper Garcia to take a 10-3 lead.

Bishop responded with an impressive 80-yard drive for a touchdown. BJ Murillo started the drive with a 30-yard run and he caught a 24-yard pass from Molina. Carter, on a fake run and pass, threw 1-yard to Gonzalez for the score on fourth and goal.

A low snap cost the Cardinals on the PAT, leaving them behind 10-9.

Nordhoff came right back and scored. The Rangers converted on three third-down plays on a 51-yard drive. The final conversion was an 8-yard touchown pass from quarterback Tanner Workman to receiver Taylor Brown. That made the score 17-9 with 11:52 left in the game.

Workman and Brown hooked up on a 40-yard gain that put the Rangers at the Bishop 7. The Cardinals defense came up with a 9-yard sack on Workman on third and goal. But the Rangers still came away with points as Garcia kicked a 34-yard field goal to make it 20-9.

The Cardinals scored with seven seconds left on a 26-yard pass from Carter to Nolan Tooley. Molina hit Aidan Williams for a two-point conversion to complete the scoring.