Camarillo has too much firepower for Cardinals, 54-28

John Harris scored two touchdowns in Bishop's semifinal loss to No. 1 Camarillo. (Presidio Sports file photo)

John Harris scored two touchdowns in Bishop’s semifinal loss to No. 1 Camarillo. (Presidio Sports file photo)

A tremendous season came to an end for the Bishop Diego football team in the semifinals of the CIF Northern Division playoffs.

Top-seeded Camarillo had too many weapons and capitalized on Bishop mistakes to pull away for a 54-28 win before a big crowd at Camarillo. The 13-0 Scorpions will play for the division title against Camino League rival Thousand Oaks next Friday. Thousand Oaks won at Arroyo Grande in the other semifinal.

For Bishop, the loss was the only blemish on their record (12-1), which included two wins in the Division 3 playoffs.

“They achieved probably more than anybody thought they could achieve,” Bishop coach Tom Crawford said of his players. “It was satisfying to see the progress that they made from the very beginning to be in a game like this. The score was not indicative of our effort, but it was our effort that got us to this spot.”

Camarillo coach Jack Willard was impressed with Bishop.

“That team may be from a small school and not have a lot of guys but they pretty much can play anywhere,” he said. “They’re a bunch of good football players over there.”

Camarillo’s defense did a good job of containing Bishop’s running game. So quarterback Spencer Stovesand went to the air and threw long to sophomore running back John Harris. The ball was tipped by the safety but Harris kept his eyes on the ball, caught it and raced into the end zone to complete a 74-yard play and pull Bishop to within a touchdown at 21-14 with 4:54 left in the second quarter.

The electrifying play fired up the Cardinals’ defense and they forced Camarillo to punt.

That’s when the momentum of the game made a dramatic switch.

On the punt, Bishop returner Tommy Murillo ran up for the ball while calling for a fair catch and muffed it. Camarillo recovered at its 41.

“That was real difficult,” Crawford said. “It was the right play by Tommy trying to fair catch it and it was just unfortunate. We’ve been on the kids about not fair catching because some times the ball bounces and you end up losing 20-25 yards. So Tommy is in there doing what we’ve asked him to do, and it’s just one of those things.”

Said Willard: “They may have had a little momentum there and we snatched it back when they gave us the football.”

The Scorpions capitalized, moving down the field in 11 plays to score the touchdown on a 1-yard by running back Isaiah Otis. That gave them a 28-14 lead with 35 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Camarillo defense made sure the momentum stayed on its side at the start of the second half. On third-and-9 from the 30, the Scorpions swarmed Stovesand and forced a fumble. The ball was knocked around until linebacker Collin Kirksey recovered it in the end zone for a 35-14 advantage.

“I thought that defensive touchdown at the beginning of the second half was big for our kids,” said Willard.

But Bishop didn’t back down. The Cardinals responded with a 74-yard touchdown drive. Stovesand hit AV Bennett for 33 yards for the big play on the drive and then scored on a 3-yard run. Jack Luckhurst’s PAT made it 35-21.

Camarillo put the game out of reach with pair of TD passes from sophomore quarterback Jake Moss. He delivered a 27-yarder to Elijah Alexander and hit Frankie Tostado for 27 yards. The second touchdown pass was set up by a Tostado interception.

“He played exceptionally well tonight, but he’s an exceptional player,” said Willard.

“We couldn’t tackle him,” Crawford said of the 6-2, 200-pound Tostdo. “When he got the ball in space, we struggled to try and tackle him. A kid his size, with his strength and speed, was, in my view, kind of the difference maker in the game.”

Moss played a solid game in place of senior Jake Constantine, who was suspended after picking up two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a quarterfinal win at St. Joseph last week. Moss completed his first nine passes and finished the night with 14 out of 20 attempts for 267 yards and three scores.

“We didn’t know anything,” said Crawford of Moss. “I thought he played very well for them. They had nice a game plan for him.”

Moss threw mostly short passes and screens, which were very effective.

“I thought he did a real good job in practice getting ready,” Willard said. “We kept things pretty basic, and we know that we got good players in other places. It wasn’t really a matter of Jake doing a lot. He just had to execute some simple things. He was fantastic.”

Isaiah Otis led the Scorpions’ ground game, rushing for 169 yards on 29 carries scoring three touchdowns.

“We were outmanned a little bit,” said Crawford. “We knew that we were going to have to play a real good game in order to have a chance. Give (Camarillo) credit, they played very, very well.”

Willard said a key to his team’s victory was shutting down Soracco. He had big games running the ball in playoff wins over Newbury Park and Palmdale. Camarillo held him to 47 yards.

“My No. 1 concern was could we stop them running the football. And for the most part I thought we did a decent job at that,” Willard said. “No. 8 (Soracco) is the real deal. He’s an outstanding runner, a tough hard-nose kid. We knew we had to get him before he got us. Once he breaks the line of scrimmage, he can really pound you. We had to do some things at the line of scrimmage and behind the line of scrimmage to slow him down.”

Crawford agreed Bishop’s struggles to run the ball effectively was a key factor in the game.

“It doesn’t help when on two of your first three possessions your field position is really poor,” he said. “That didn’t help us because it didn’t allow us to get in any rhythm. A couple of mistakes hurt us as well early run. But they’ve been stout against the run with every opponent they played.

“We knew it was going to be difficult, but I was disappointed that we didn’t run the ball better.”

Camarillo stunned the Bishop defense on its first score. Otis ran the ball seven times on the Scorpions’ first possession, which ended on a fumble by Moss at the 2. When they got the ball back after the Cardinals went three and out, Ryan Muscarella took the center snap and bolted up the middle for a 34-yard touchdown run.

Otis put Camarillo ahead 14-0 on a 5-yard run at 10:51 of the second quarter.

The Cardinals finally broke loose on a 60-yard sweep by Harris to the Camarillo 8. Two plays later, he scored on a 6-yard run, cutting the deficit to 14-7 at 7:57 of the second quarter.

The Scorpions then turned their big-play receiver Tostado loose. Moss threw a screen pass to him and he rambled 70 yards, breaking several tackles on the way to the end zone for a 21-7 lead.

Harris’ spectacular catch kept the Cardinals in striking distance. But the turnovers were too much to overcome.

Down 54-21, Bishop continued to battle and drove 69 yards for its final touchdown. Murillo had a 12-yard run and 10-yard reception. Stovesand hit Matt Shotwell on an 8-yard pass for the score.

Crawford was pleased how his Cardinals fought to the end of the semifinal game and proud of how well they played in the division.

“I’m thrilled with the way the kids responded. Even tonight, we didn’t play very well but we didn’t back down. I was pleased with the kids’ effort.”

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