Courtesy Photo

The only game in town last weekend turned out to be 60 miles away. Bishop Diego High was slated to host a CIF state regional bowl game at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium, but with unhealthy smoke in the air and ashes piling up like snowfall at a Buffalo Bills game, the Cardinals made themselves at home last Saturday in the stadium at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

Despite being limited to one full practice beforehand, Bishop played one of its best games of the year, a 41-7 throttling of the Quartz Hill Rebels. Now the Cardinals have gone as far as a California prep football team can go — to a state championship bowl game — and they will again play at Cal Lutheran on Saturday night, December 16, for the 3AA Division title against north regional champion Shasta High from Redding.

Coach Tom Crawford commended the Cardinals, cheered on by more than 1,000 fans, for coming out with focus and energy against Quartz Hill. Perhaps the best call the coach and captains made all night was to kick off after winning the pregame coin toss. They had chosen to take the ball on offense in their previous games, but this time they chose the north side of the field to have a steady wind at their backs. “We knew there was a good chance for Jack [Luckhurst, the junior placekicker] to find the end zone and force them to drive 80 yards,” Crawford said.

Luckhurst did pound the ball into the end zone, and the fired-up Bishop defense did not let the Rebels drive anywhere but in reverse. Linebackers Will Goodwin and Ashton Borgeson stymied two passes by highly touted quarterback Matthew Tago. Bishop star John Harris made a cameo appearance at defensive end, and on third down he sacked Tago for an eight-yard loss. The

Cardinals then unleashed an all-out rush on the punter, Isaiah Veal swatted the ball down, and Bishop took over at the Rebels’ five-yard line. Two plays later, Harris scored the first of his four touchdowns. The Cardinals led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter after a 60-yard scoring dash by Harris.

Quartz Hill had a chance to narrow the margin when it drove to a first-and-goal at the Bishop 9. But the Cardinals held there, as Borgeson batted away Tago’s pass on fourth down. Harris then demoralized the Rebels by running 91 yards for a score, fending off the last defender who tried to wrestle him down.

If Quartz Hill had any highlight in the first three quarters, it was because Bishop running backs Adrian Sorraco and Dylan Streett absolutely refused to go down. While they were pushing for extra yardage in the grasp of several tacklers, a larcenous defender managed to strip the football away from them. But the Rebels were unable to capitalize on the turnovers. They did not score until the last play of the game, when Tago connected on a TD pass as the Cardinals were beginning to celebrate.

Veal, a fleet-footed senior receiver and defensive back, had his hand in a lot of big plays. He intercepted a pass at the goal line, and on a rare occasion the Cardinals put the ball in the air, he made a spectacular grab of a 43-yard pass from Jake Engel.

Central to the team effort were Bishop’s senior offensive linemen, including Xavier Carroll, Brian Kim, Skip Guillen, Jacob Songer, Mitch Heller, and Chris Jablonka. All season long, they paved the way for Harris to explode for more than 2,000 yards. Harris was congratulated by a Quartz Hill fan after the game and asked where he would be going to college. He hadn’t decided, Harris said, and he added, “I’m thinking Columbia.” A straight-A student, he would be a good fit in the Ivy League. But this week, Harris and the Cardinals are thinking Shasta, thinking of their final game together and a chance to add to their wealth of lifetime memories.

GAUCHOS ON A ROLL: After winning just six basketball games last year, UCSB’s men figured to improve under new head coach Joe Pasternack. But it was not widely expected that they would make such huge strides in the first month of the season. The Gauchos are off to an 8-2 start after winning their seventh consecutive game by a 91-69 score at Montana State last week. They have four players scoring in double figures, led by guard Max Heidegger (23.4) and forward Leland King II (19.2).

The Gauchos, who expected to take final exams this week only to have them postponed because of the fire situation, will face a stern test on the basketball court, a 5 p.m. game Sunday, December 17, at USC. They will return home on Tuesday to take San Diego Christian at 7 p.m.

SURFING CHAMP: Conner Coffin of Santa Barbara spends a lot of time in Hawai‘i, not for vacation but to pursue his occupation as a professional surfer. Last week, he became the first Californian to win the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu. “I put in a lot of time there,” said Coffin, 24. “I love that wave.”

This week, he will be competing in the final event of the Vans Triple Crown at the notorious Banzai Pipeline. That’s a wave he respects rather than loves. “It’s one of the gnarliest waves on the planet,” he said. “Huge barrels breaking on a shallow reef. It’s super intense, scary, fun.” Only a seasoned surfer would add “fun” to that description.


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