Nordhoff hands Bishop first loss

AV Bennett scored both of Bishop Diego's touchdowns on Friday.

AV Bennett scored both of Bishop Diego’s touchdowns on Friday.

 

The Bishop Diego Cardinals saw their perfect regular season come to an end on Friday night, suffering their first loss of the season to visiting Nordhoff 35-14.

Adding insult to injury, the Rangers ran off with the Tri-Valley League title. The game’s result was a case of déjà vu for the Cardinals (9-1), who now have lost to the Nordhoff Rangers of Ojai (6-4) three straight times.

Bishop Diego head coach Tom Crawford was honest when it came to his team’s performance against a Nordhoff squad, who have overcome numerous early season injuries and are now catching fire.

“Clearly, they’re a different team now that they’re healthy,” he said. “They beat us in every phase of the game. In so many areas, we just did not play well.”

The previous meeting between the two teams was in last year’s CIF Southern Section semi final, with Nordhoff prevailing 24-21. Nordhoff ended the Cardinals’ season en route to a CIF championship, and an appearance in the CIF state championship regional bowl game.

“They’re quickly becoming my least favorite team,” Crawford said.

The tension over who would slip up first in this clash of titans was broken midway through the first quarter, with Nordhoff fielding an errant Bishop Diego punt on the Cardinals’ own six yard-line.

Nordhoff's Baylee Rogers

Nordhoff’s Baylee Rogers scored three touchdowns on Friday.

The Rangers took only two plays to draw first blood, with running back Baylee Rogers walking into the end zone to put Nordhoff up 7-0.

The Cardinals—who make a living off of running the ball—struggled on the ground for most of the game, gaining only six yards on their first eight attempts.

“Offensively, we just never got into a rhythm,” Crawford said.

Bishop Diego was held to just 110 rushing yards.

After forcing another Bishop Diego punt. Nordhoff would put together another scoring drive, which was again capped off by another Rogers touchdown run. Rogers’ second of three rushing touchdowns put the Rangers up 14-0 late in the first quarter.

Bishop Diego eventually responded with a dramatic scoring drive of its own. A pass interference penalty against Nordhoff helped place the Cardinals on the Rangers’ four yard-line. Two plays later, Cardinals’ quarterback looked to his right and threw a pass to receiver AV Bennett.

Bennett then did his best Santonio Holmes impression, keeping his feet inbounds while also wresting the ball away from a Nordhoff defender for a touchdown.

“That was a tremendous play,” Crawford said. “Here he is, obviously focused on the football which is up for grabs. Yet, he somehow manages to have a sense for where he is on the sideline.”

The momentum gained from Bennett’s catch was short-lived. On the Cardinal’s next offensive drive, Nordhoff would intercept a pass on Bishop Diego’s own 36 yard-line.

Two minutes later, the Rangers would strike again, scoring on a short run to extend their lead to 21-7 late in the second quarter.

When things looked dim for Cardinals, hope arrived once again in the form of AV Bennett. The junior caught the ensuing kickoff on the 1 yard-line and stood for a split second.

Bennett’s pause caused the Nordhoff kicking unit to ease up just enough to create a seam. Bennett took advantage of the crease, racing 99 yards for a touchdown to make the score 21-14 heading into halftime.

“That was a fabulous run,” Crawford said. “It gave us a big energy boost, but unfortunately we just didn’t carry it into the second half.”

Bishop Diego wouldn’t score again for the rest of the game.

A promising drive midway through the third quarter was cut short by another interception. Nordhoff capitalized again, with a quarterback sneak by Austin Santino to give the Rangers a commanding 28-14 lead.

Late in the third quarter, the Cardinals found the success on the ground that they are known for, running the ball six straight times to put the Bishop offense on the Nordhoff 22.

However, an intentional grounding penalty against the Cardinals would force Bishop Diego to punt early in the fourth quarter.

“There was just too many mistakes,” Crawford remarked. “We can’t make the sorts of mistakes we made, and find ourselves in 3rd and 20 situations.”

Bishop Diego's Abel Gonzalez breaks around the edge with the end zone in sight.

Bishop Diego’s Abel Gonzalez breaks around the edge with the end zone in sight.

Despite a perfect season going up in smoke, coach Crawford still thinks that his team can learn from the loss.

“You’ve got to learn from a loss,” he explained. “As much as that might sting, you’ve got to reflect on things you could have done differently, from coaches on down.”

The Cardinals will now turn their attention to the playoff season, which will officially begin this Sunday when preliminary round schedule is released.

“I told to the guys: reflect on it for 24 hours, and then come Sunday you’ll know who your playoff opponent is. On Monday you’ve got to turn the page, and have learned something from it.”

Bishop Diego will most likely be the 2nd seed in this year’s playoff bracket. The Cardinals still have a stout defense; a leader of a quarterback in Spencer Stovesand; and the three-headed monster of Abel Gonzalez, Daniel Molina, and freshman John Harris in the backfield.

Whoever Bishop Diego draws in the first round will have to deal with a Cardinals team that will be eager to make tonight’s loss a distant memory.

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