First-half damage holds up for Cardinals

The Bishop Diego pass rush chases down Fillmore quarterback Carlos Briceno. (Presidio Sports Photos)

The Bishop Diego pass rush chases down Fillmore quarterback Carlos Briceno. (Presidio Sports Photos)

Bishop Diego’s explosive start helped compensate for a second half slump on Saturday, as the Cardinals defeated the visiting Fillmore Flashes 23-6 at La Playa Stadium in the Tri-Valley League opener for both teams.

The Cardinals (8-0, 1-0) defensive unit rose to the challenge of containing a Fillmore offense that had previously outscored its opponents 207-76. Fillmore falls to 6-2, 0-1.

After giving up a 46-yard run during Fillmore’s opening drive in the first quarter, the Bishop Diego defense decided that enough was enough. The Cardinals’ defense held on 4th down on their own 17 yard-line to keep the visiting Flashes off the scoreboard. It was the first of two 4th down stops for the Cardinals on the night.

Bishop Diego running back Daniel Molina led the Cardinals with 133 rushing yards.

Bishop Diego running back Daniel Molina led the Cardinals with 133 rushing yards.

“Those plays were huge,” Crawford said. “Our guys know what’s on the line on 4th down.”

It would be the closest that Fillmore got to scoring for the entire first half.

The Bishop defense dominated the Wing-T offense of Fillmore, who entered the game at 6-1. The Cardinals’ defense held the Flashes to 99 total yards in the first half, and only allowed Fillmore to possess the ball for just over six minutes.

Bishop Diego was just as stingy with possessions as it was with the clock. Abel Gonzalez picked off a Fillmore pass attempt midway through the second quarter to put the third Flashes’ drive on ice.

The workhorse Gonzalez also had a rushing touchdown on the night.

The Cardinals’ offense struggled to find its groove early in the game. “A lot of offense is rhythm,” Crawford said. “It takes time to adjust.”

Cardinals quarterback Spencer Stovesand helped give the rushing attack all the time it needed. The junior completed passes of 33, 17, and 19 yards in the first quarter to keep drives alive.

“He was playing really in control,” Crawford said. “He’s progressed this season, and we’re going to need him down the road.”

A pass attempt from Stovesand to Matthew Shottwell for 19 yards helped spark the Cardinals offense, as freshman running back John Harris rumbled 48 yards for a touchdown on the very next play.

After Harris’ touchdown, the Cardinals ground attack never looked back. The stable of Cardinals running backs tallied 279 rushing yards. “Our backs run very, very hard,” Crawford remarked. “It helps to have so many guys because we can keep fresh legs in the game.”

Senior running back Daniel Molina led the charge, with 133 rushing yards on 14 carries.

Despite the final score, Cardinals head coach Tom Crawford expressed disappointment in his team’s second half performance—which included two turnovers, two sacks allowed, and zero points.

Bishop Diego quarterback Shane Stovesand scrambles Fillmore lineman Gilardo Sandoval.

Bishop Diego quarterback Spencer Stovesand attempts to disengage from Fillmore lineman Gilardo Sandoval.

“We were too satisfied with the score,” Crawford said. “We need to be able and willing to play for four quarters.”

The Cardinals gave up a 38-yard run early in the fourth quarter to set up the Flashes’ only scoring drive, making the score 23-6.

The Bishop Diego offense — which did not punt once in the first half — seemed out of sync after halftime. “We didn’t have the same rhythm in the second half as we did in the first,” Crawford said. “We had a lot of negative plays. Those are drive-killers.”

The victory moves the Cardinals to 1-0 in the Tri-Valley league. On a short week, Bishop Diego will travel to Carpinteria to take on the rival Warriors on Thursday night. While the annual Bishop Diego/Carpinteria game is one of the hottest rivalry contests in the area, coach Crawford said his players never lost focus this week.

“Our guys did a good job of not talking about Carp this week,” he said.

However, Crawford knows the game’s hype will eventually affect his team.

“I’m sure on Monday there’ll be some buzzing,” he said. “We always have good practices the week against Carp.”

Bishop Diego will look to extend its win streak over Carpinteria to four next Thursday.