Friday Night Lights: Bishop ready for a battle in Atascadero

AV Bennett has provided  a spark on special teams for Bishop Diego.

AV Bennett has provided a spark on special teams for Bishop Diego. (Janice Graham photo)

Bishop Diego played a tough non-league football schedule for this reason: to take on teams like Atascadero in the CIF playoffs.

The Cardinals (10-1) travel to Atascadero on Friday to face the 9-2 Greyhounds in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Northern Division. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Bishop played and defeated solid, physical teams like Santa Fe Christian and Immanuel during its pre-league schedule. But neither of those teams possess the size and roster of Atascadero. The Greyhounds’ offensive line averages around 240 pounds and its backs are generally over 200 pounds.

“They are very impressive in many areas and clearly have the ability to pile up yardage and put up points as evident from their most recent playoff game against Thousand Oaks,” said Bishop coach Tom Crawford, referring to the Greyhounds’ 48-41 first-round win. “Obviously, defensively we have to be able to play a physical game using our quickness, read keys well and tackle well. For the most part, we have done those things in games, so we have to extend that against a team that has probably the most diverse offense we have seen so far.”

Atascadero is led by 6-3, 220-pound quarterback Tommy Carr. He likes to run the ball. He rushed for 113 yards last week against Thousand Oaks.

Running back R.J. Reusche was the star in the first-round victory. He replaced injured starter Marc Martin and rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns. Reusche is 6-1, 190. Another running back, Ethan Hicks, is 5-11, 225 pounds.

The Greyhounds gave up big plays through the air against Thousand Oaks. Quarterback Max Gilliam passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns.

Bishop Diego junior quarterback Spencer Stovesand connected on some big pass plays during the second half of the Cardinals’ 21-14 first round win over Antelope Valley. It will be important for Stovesand to mix things up against the Greyhounds.

“Offensively, we need to control the football and keep their offense off the field as much as possible,” Crawford said. “That will require us to be balanced and take advantage of scoring opportunities. It is also important that we take care of the football and win the special teams phase of the game as that will also help with field position which could be critical.”

Crawford said the Cardinals are looking forward to the challenge of playing the Pac 5 tri-champions

“Obviously, we will have to play our best game of the season, but the boys have really shown an awareness of the fact that we have won lots of games playing below our potential and we need to focus on those things we have power to control. The team is also looking forward to the exciting atmosphere.”