Friday Night Lights: Bishop plays for TVL title; Royals look to end Big Game skid

The regular season of prep football goes out with a bang in Santa Barbara on Friday night.

At La Playa Stadium, Bishop Diego plays host to Nordhoff for the Tri-Valley League championship and the league’s No. 1 berth for the CIF playoffs. Kickoff is 7:30.

Across town at Peabody Stadium, San Marcos visits Santa Barbara for the 55th Big Game, with the City Championship going to the winner. The Dons and Royals kick it off at 7 p.m.

Bishop comes in to Friday’s TVL title game with a 9-0 record (2-0 in the TVL) and a No. 5 ranking in the CIF Northern Division. Nordhoff is 5-4 and 2-0, with both league wins by shutout.

These teams are no strangers to playing each other with a lot on the line. Nordhoff beat the Cardinals in last year’s Northwest Division semifinals en route to its second straight CIF title. Two years ago, Bishop defeated the Rangers for the TVL title.

Both teams are battle tested after playing tough schedules. Nordhoff went through a rough stretch of games before league, losing to Lompoc, Paso Robles, Sierra Canyon and San Marcos. The Rangers suffered injuries to several key players during that period, but those players returned healthy in time for league play.

Linebacker Shane Hersh is one the key returnees from last year’s championship squad. He leads the team in tackles. He had 15 last week in a 28-0 win over Fillmore.

On offense, the Rangers have size on the line, a power running back in Baylee Rogers and an efficient quarterback in Austin Santino. They also have an excellent kicker in Cooper Garcia, who made three field goals, including a 50-yarder, in a 24-21 semifinal win at La Playa last year.

“We have to limit big plays by Nordhoff and control their power running game, which has been dominant the past couple of weeks,” Bishop coach Tom Crawford said. “Our D has been solid in league play so that has to continue.”

The Cardinals also have a potent running attack, with seniors Abel Gonzalez and Danny Molina, and freshman John Harris sharing the load. Quarterback Spencer Stovesand has improved in his passing. AV Bennett provides a spark as a kick returner. He’s returned two for touchdowns.

“A key for us is to establish our own running game and finding a rhythm to keep Nordhoff off balance,” Crawford said. “Possessions are always limited in high school games so taking advantage of opportunities to score and winning the turnover battle are critical. Really no secrets here.”


San Marcos won its first Channel League game in five years this season. Now the Royals are looking to snap a four-game losing streak against their crosstown rivals.

Santa Barbara leads the series 31-23.

San Marcos (3-6, 1-2) has a strong running game with the 1-2 punch of Ivan Reyes (663 yards) and Inri Cortez (546). Senior quarterback Sage Reid is passing with confidence. His favorite receiver is D’Shaun Vines.

Defensively, the Royals have two active linebackers in Nathan Coffey and Sam Charest.

Linebackers Junior Garcia and Carter Soto lead the Dons on defense. Russell Enholm is a standout at cornerback.

On offense, Santa Barbara junior quarterback Brent Peus leads the attack. He’s thrown for 1,074 yards and seven touchdowns. His big-play receivers include Danny Vallin and Christopher Jellison.

With a win, the Dons (4-5, 1-2) can finish with a .500 record in JT Stone’s first year as head coach.

In other action Friday, Carpinteria plays at Fillmore, looking to snap a three-game losing streak and finish with a .500 record.