Qu'Ran Gossett breaks free from the Vista Murrieta defense. he finished with 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns. | Credit: Victor Bryant

Qu’Ran Gossett and Misa Paiau combined for over 300 yards rushing as the Bishop Diego football team pounded visiting Vista Murrieta 41-18 in a CIF-SS division three first round game, on Saturday night at La Playa Stadium.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

“We have not been a good team at the start of games so far this season,” said Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford. “It is something that we spent time talking to the kids about. There was a different feel in the locker room I think tonight before the game in terms of focus level and energy level.”

On Bishop Diego’s first possession of the game quarterback A.J. Vele connected with Bryan Trejo on a 48-yard pass down to the 17-yard line. Five plays later,  Paiu rumbled into the end zone with 7:07 remaining in the first quarter.

The Cardinals followed that up with an eight-play, 54-yard drive that was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Vele to Vili Fano with just over 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Bishop Diego missed the ensuing extra point and settled for a 13-0 lead.

After a quick three-and-out by Vista Murrieta, Gossett delivered the knockout blow with a 64-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing Bishop Diego drive as the first quarter clock expired.

Gosset showed incredible lateral agility and vision on the play as he zigged and zagged through the Mustangs’ defense.

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The Bishop Diego rushing combination struck again at the 5:48 mark of the second quarter as Paiau exploded for the play of the game with a 52-yard touchdown run that included a spin move in the secondary and sharp cut along the sideline that left Vista Murrieta defenders grasping at air.

“I just want to thank my O-line, without my O-line I wouldn’t have had that run,” said Paiau of his touchdown, which put the Cardinals ahead 27-0. “I didn’t know what to do. My legs were kind of stuck, but I hit them with the spin and then the juke and I was free for the touchdown.”

Gossett capped off the first half scoring with a 31-yard touchdown run with 1:19 remaining in the second quarter. He finished with 202 yards on 20 carries one week after breaking the county record with 406 yards on 15 carries against Simi Valley.

Paiau rushed for 127 yards on eleven carries. 

Vista Murrieta showed renewed vigor in the second half as Akili Smith Jr., the son of the former University of Oregon star quarterback and Cincinnati Bengals first round pick, tossed two second half touchdown passes, including an eight-yard completion to Ryland Duson that cut the Mustangs deficit to 34-12 with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter. 

Bishop Diego will host undefeated El Modena of Orange in the quarterfinals next week. 

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