Young Cardinals ready to step up, continue winning tradition


It’s time for the next group of Bishop Diego football players to step up, take charge and continue the program’s winning tradition.

That’s what coach Tom Crawford is counting on this season. He and his staff will be guiding a group that’s young and full of talent.

“We’re real young,” he said. “We’re having to talk about losing almost all of our starters, and we lost 23 seniors off last year’s group. That was a roster with no sophomores on it. This one is going to have four sophomores and two freshmen. We may have some learning to do, but this is a very willing group, really coachable; they work hard. You can see them growing by leaps and bounds.”

If any of the young Cardinals need to know what it takes to win football games, they can look to returning All-CIF running back Abel Gonzalez. He’s started on two CIF semifinal teams. Last season, he rushed for 1,266 yards and scored 17 touchdowns.

“Abel has really been just marvelous in terms of being a leader of this group and has really stepped up to that task,” Crawford said. “He really didn’t have to last year with all the seniors we had, but he’s really embraced that role. He’s in to have another wonderful season. There is a sense of stability and athleticism he provides.”

Gonzalez is impressed with the new group.

“I expect a great season from these guys,” he said. “We have a smaller team but we still have a lot of talent on the team, a lot of speed.”

Danny Molina gives the Cardinals another experienced player at the tailback position.

“He really stepped up last year for us,” said Crawford. “We got two very experienced tailbacks. We also got a freshman, John Harris, who is the biggest of the three. John’s been a real pleasant surprise for us. He’s going to get some work at tailback. I think we got a group of runners that can do a lot for us.”

AV Bennett, who rushed for 2,000 yards and 34 touchdowns last season on the JV team, is expected to take over the Z receiver spot.

A new quarterback will be running the sophisticated offense for Bishop. Senior Chris Harrison, a varsity wide receiver and defensive back last year, and junior Spencer Stovesand are competing for the job. Stovesand was last year’s JV quarterback.

The offensive line is new, but it has some seniors who saw action last season. Sam Grimm at center, strong guard Nate Solano and tackle Miguel Castellanos are ready to take charge as starters.

On defense, the inside linebacker group of Matt Shotwell, AJ Bongovi and Isaac “Chucky” Salcedo, lead the way. Shotwell, a junior, comes from a football family. His older brothers, Kyle, Ryan and Troy, were standout players at Dos Pueblos who went on to play at Cal Poly.

“He brings a lot of energy to the practice field and the locker room,” said Crawford of Matt Shotwell. “He’s a gregarious guy. For a kid who is only going to be a junior, the strides he’s made in the last year and the leadership is pretty unique.”

The Cardinals are experienced at outside linebacker with Gonzalez and Alexis Herrera. In addition, freshman Ashton Borgeson has impressed Crawford and figures to get lots of playing time. John Harris also may see action at linebacker as well as at defensive end.

“We’ve been very fortunate with the quality of our linebackers the last couple of years. I think this linebacking corps is pretty strong again. For them, it’s a matter of experience,” said Crawford.

Bishop Diego’s roster is smaller this season (26 players), but the quality is there, says Gonzalez.

“I expect a great season from these guys. We have a smaller team but we still have a lot of talent on the team, a lot of speed.”

2014 Bishop Diego Football Schedule

Aug. 29 at Oak Park 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 Santa Fe Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12 at La Salle 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 Cabrillo 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 —-Bye—-
Oct. 3 at Mission Prep, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 View Park 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Immanuel (Reedley) 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 Fillmore* 7:30 p.m
Oct. 30 at Carpinteria* 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 7 Nordhoff* 7:30 p.m.

Home games in bold
Home games at SBCC
*Tri-Valley League game