Friday Night Lights: Bishop is ready for first-round challenge

Bishop Diego has been preparing for this game since losing in the second round of the Northern Division football playoffs last season at Atascadero.

The undefeated Cardinals open the 2015 playoffs against 2014 division runner-up Newbury Park on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at La Playa Stadium.

The Cardinals worked harder in the weight room during the offseason, played tougher non-league opponents and developed a mindset that they can compete with the much larger public schools in the division for four quarters.

They’ll have their hands full against a Newbury Park team that finished third behind No. 1-ranked Camarillo and Thousand Oaks in the Canyon League. The Panthers (6-4) are led by quarterback Cameron Rising, a sophomore phenom. He’s passed for 36 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards. He tied a Ventura County record with seven TD passes in a win over Dos Pueblos.

Rising’s favorite targets are Shane Sipes (40 catches, 817 yards, 10 TDs) and Andrew Noble (36-713, 12 TDs).

Chris Brooks complements the Panthers’ high-powered passing attack. The speedy running back has rushed for 827 yards. He is coming off a 179-yard performance in a 36-35 loss to Thousand Oaks.

Newbury Park has scored 385 points this season and surrendered 294.

The Panthers face a multi-faceted Bishop team. The Cardinals can pound the ball with running back Mike Soracco and John Harris, and they can burn defenses with CIF sprint champion AV Bennett. Quarterback Spencer Stovesand has been an accurate passer, completing 70 of 100 passes for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Bennett makes opposing coaches hold their breath anytime he touches the ball. He has three punt returns, three interception returns and a kickoff return for touchdowns. He’s also caught two TD passes.

Linebacker Matt Shotwell leads the Bishop Diego defense with 134 tackles. The Cardinals have allowed only 126 points this season. But they haven’t faced an offense that is as potent as Newbury Park. The Pick: Newbury Park

Carpinteria (4-6) at Antelope Valley (7-3), 7 p.m.
— The Warriors make their Northern Division playoff debut against an athletic AV team. The Antelopes are led by junior dual-threat quarterback Merrell Osling (2,072 yards passing, 21 TDs and 457 yards rushing). The team went 6-1 in the Golden League, losing only to unbeaten and fourth-seeded Palmdale. After a slow start, Carpinteria found its rhythm and won four of its last five games. It will need a spirited, mistake-free effort in the cold high desert. The Pick: Antelope Valley.