Overwhelming success brought forth a next-level challenge for the Bishop Diego football team.
A spot in the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs and a matchup with top-seeded Alemany was an amazing achievement for the small school program and also a significant hurdle that the Cardinals failed to clear as the host Warriors claimed a 45-14 victory on Friday night.
“They should be proud of what they accomplished this year. They took our program to a level that it had not been at so they need to keep that in perspective,” said Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford. “They played a brilliant football team tonight, and they fought to the very end.”
Bishop Diego was the more physical team in every game, with the possible exception of St. Bonaventure, until the matchup with Alemany, a team that boasted a significant size advantage.
Perhaps a bigger difference-maker than the size differential was Alemany’s speed on the perimeter. USC commit Ephesians Prysock took a short pass from quarterback Dylan Gebbia, made a quick move, and exploded up the sideline on the second play from scrimmage for a 76-yard touchdown. From that point forward, Bishop Diego was chasing the game.
“One thing you saw early on in the game on both sides of the ball is that it was hard to deal with their size and speed when you don’t have those types of bodies throughout your roster,” Crawford said. “We took some poor angles initially and came off guys on offense in terms of our blocking, but the kids kept on playing, but we stuck with it and got better as the game wore on.”
The Cardinals only had one first down in the first half as their plans to lean on a ball control offense never materialized, leaving a defense that stood tall at times in difficult situations.
Alemany running back Jaylen Thompson, who holds multiple Pac 12 scholarship offers, scored twice in the first half on a 44-yard catch and run that put Alemany ahead 14-0 and a 16-yard run that put the Warriors ahead 23-0. Prysock closed the first-half scoring with a 29-yard touchdown catch with 52 seconds remaining in the second quarter, increasing the Alemany lead to 30-0.
Bishop Diego opened the second half with a 10-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off by a 45-yard touchdown run from Qu’Ran Gossett, who was hit in the backfield on the play but broke free and outraced the Alemany defense, cutting the Cardinals deficit to 30-7.
A major bright spot for Bishop Diego throughout the game was the punting of Michael Luckhurst, who unleashed a 68-yarder on his first punt of the game and followed that up with several more punts that eclipsed 50 yards.
“That’s just what I do, and that’s what I’m going to do for a while,” said Luckhurst of his kicking prowess. “It’s my craft.”
Luckhurst also broke off a 56-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that showed off his athleticism in his final high school game.
“Coach called a screen and said, ‘If you want, you can just pull it,’” Luckhurst said. “It was the last possession of my career here, so I had to do it. It was a great feeling.”
Santa Barbara 36; Campbell Hall 20
The “Golden Tornado” lived up to the postseason nickname, and now Santa Barbara will host a Division 6 quarterfinals game next Friday.