Bishop Diego's Aaron Skinner was slowed down by Mary Star of the Sea's Joseph Ponce in the Cardinals' 36-0 victory over the visiting San Pedro team on their warpath to the division championships.
Paul Wellman

Friday night lights have flickered out for all but one South Coast high school football team: the Bishop Diego High Cardinals. They successfully launched their quest for the CIF Mid-Valley Division championship by blanking Mary Star of the Sea 36-0 in their playoff opener last Friday night at La Playa Stadium. Bishop will hit the road to face Temple City in the quarterfinals this Friday night, November 23.

In their victory over Mary Star, the Cardinals played a complete game. Christian Winnewisser, a strapping 6ʹ4ʰ quarterback, displayed a full repertoire of passes-a spiral almost 50 yards in the air to the fingertips of fleet receiver Eli Orosco, and a pair of scoring tosses to Jeremy Kjar: a dart on a quick slant-in, and a perfectly placed fade in the corner of the end zone. Aaron Skinner, a compact 5ʹ8ʰ running back, churned out good yardage, finishing every carry with a forward thrust. The defense, led by lineman Don Deaile and linebacker David Renick, pitched a shutout. Head coach Tom Crawford was loath to run up the score and kept the wraps on Winnewisser and Skinner in the second half.

“I don’t want to jinx things, but it looks like we’re peaking at the right time,” Crawford said. If the Cardinals get past Temple City-a big, physical team-they would host the semifinal game in Santa Barbara a week later.

There is another area prep team still playing eight-man football, a sport in which no score is safe. Cate School came from behind to top Windward 40-37 in overtime Friday. The Rams from Carpinteria will play at Canoga Park on Saturday against top-ranked Faith Baptist.

Santa Barbara High’s Golden Tornado (the Dons’ traditional moniker when they reach the playoffs) ended its postseason spin in a 34-14 defeat at Newbury Park. The Dons finished with a 7-4 record, a noteworthy turnaround from 1-9 in 2006.

In the long haul, it won’t be the wins and losses that the young men and women who participate in team sports will remember. Just ask Justin Gillett, a former all-league quarterback at San Marcos High and fourth-stringer at Notre Dame University. He has been suiting up for three years but never played a down. His last chance will be Saturday when the Fighting Irish visit Stanford.

Gillett has played plenty of football at Notre Dame, just not in front of a crowd. Every week, he gets pummeled in practice by the defense, as he takes on the role of the upcoming opponent’s quarterback. He had to survive 5:30 a.m. workouts in the winter of his freshman year to earn his spot as a non-scholarship player. “The reason I’m playing isn’t to get into a game,” Gillett said last week. “I love football, and I want to help the team. I enjoy the camaraderie.” He relished the experience of game days at home, from attending Mass at the basilica and marching across campus to the stadium, and later swaying arm-in-arm with his teammates while the students sang the alma mater after the game. He went through it for the last time Saturday.

A 28-7 victory over Duke put some salve on Notre Dame’s historically bad (2-9) season. “We encountered a lot of adversity,” said Gillett, who will graduate in the spring with a degree in mechanical engineering. “Everybody wants to beat Notre Dame. That’s the nature of the beast. The most important thing is how we react. Nobody on the team is in the tank. Nobody has given up. In my limited experience in life, that’s all I know how to do.”

GAUCHO WEEK: Three attractive basketball games and one huge soccer game are on tap at UCSB. It starts in the Thunderdome on Friday night when Maryland, ranked number three in the nation and a strong contender for the NCAA championship, faces the Gauchos in women’s basketball. On Saturday night, the Gaucho men will take the floor against Montana State, and on Tuesday night they will face UNLV’s Runnin’ Rebels. Capping it off will be UCSB’s first postseason game as the defending national soccer champion. Go early-a crowd of 10,000 is possible at Harder Stadium on Wednesday night, November 28. (See News of the Week on page 16 for the announcement of the NCAA soccer playoffs.)


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