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Football

Fast-Starting Bishop Diego Overpowers Quartz Hill, Advances to First CIF State Final

John Harris has TD runs of 60, 91 yards, defense dominates in 41-7 win for Regional Championship

John Harris gets plenty of blocking support from this Bishop Diego teammates on one of his runs. Harris rushed for 202 yards on 12 carries and scored four touchdowns. Click to view larger
John Harris gets plenty of blocking support from this Bishop Diego teammates on one of his runs. Harris rushed for 202 yards on 12 carries and scored four touchdowns. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

THOUSAND OAKS — Quartz Hill took the brunt of Bishop Diego’s full arsenal in Saturday night’s CIF State Division 3AA Regional Championship football game and the result was a resounding 41-7 victory by the Cardinals at Cal Lutheran’s William Rolland Stadium.

Bishop Diego defenders drop Quartz Hill quarterback Matthew Tago for a loss. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego defenders drop Quartz Hill quarterback Matthew Tago for a loss. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The Cardinals (14-1) turned John Harris, Evan McKeegan, Adrian Sorocco, Isaiah Veal and Dylan Streett loose on offense and the defense contained Quartz Hill's athletic quarterback Matthew Tago to earn a spot in the State Championship game next Saturday. 

Harris led the way, rushing for 202 yards and four touchdowns on just 12 carries. He torched Quartz Hill for scoring runs of 91 and 60 yards, and the Cardinals jumped on the Rebels for 21 points in the first quarter and led 34-0 by halftime.

“We knew coming into this game we had to do what we always do and get the job done. And that’s exactly what we did,” said Harris, who also had TD runs of 1 and 6 yards.

The performance was especially impressive considering the Cardinals only got one day of on-field practice during the week at Dunn School in Los Olivos because of the smoky, unhealthy air from the Thomas Fire.

“We knew we had a bad practice week because we didn't have many practices, so we knew we had to come out strong," said Veal. "We put our pedal to the metal to get it going. Luckily we did and it was over from the start.”

The Bishop defense played lights out, too. It pressured Tago and prevented him from breaking off big plays.

Linebackers Ashton Borgeson, Sorocco and McKeegan and defensive ends Will Goodwin and Harris were like heat-seeking missiles going after Tago, a Division 1 prospect.

“To hold a team like this and a playmaker like Tago, it’s a great feat for our team and a great thing to show,” said Harris, who had two sacks.

Dylan Streett runs behind the block of Evan McKeegan on a 37-yard flanker reverse for a touchdown in the first quarter. Click to view larger
Dylan Streett runs behind the block of Evan McKeegan on a 37-yard flanker reverse for a touchdown in the first quarter. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Tago was held to 15 yards rushing on 12 carriers, was sacked three times, completed 17 of 33 passes for 196 yards and was intercepted by Veal.

“We executed the game plan,” said Borgeson. “We tried to keep the quarterback in the pocket and tried to keep him from scrambling. Everybody played really well and came together as a team.”

Bishop coach Tom Crawford pointed to the defense against Tago as the key to the victory.

“We kept him inside the pocket trying to find time and space,” he said. “When we got a body on him, we got other guys to him pretty quickly, which you need because he is such big kid and a strong kid. He’s typically going to get through one tackle.

“Hats off to the defense for controlling him. When we got the lead, it made it a littler easier to kind of pin our ears back a little bit and go after him.”

The Cardinals held Quartz Hill to 103 total yards in the first half and 254 yards for the game, 82 of them coming on the Rebels’ last drive of the game that resulted in their lone touchdown.

"I say every single week our defense is amazing, it's great," Veal said. "It helps so much when we're able to get those sacks."

The CIF-Southern Section Division 6-champion Cardinals went after Division 10-champion Quartz Hill (13-2) from the start.

After winning the coin toss and deferring to Quartz Hill, Bishop’s defense came out firing and forced a three and out. Harris sacked Tago for an 8-yard loss on third down.

On Quartz Hill’s punt from the end zone, Veal rushed from the inside and blocked it and the Cardinals recovered at the 5-yard line. After a five-yard penalty, Harris ran nine yards to the 1 and scored on the next play at 9:51 of the quarter. Jack Luckhurst kicked the PAT.

Bishop Diego linemen Adrian Guillen (53) and Mitch Heller (35) celebrate a touchdown run by John Harris. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego linemen Adrian Guillen (53) and Mitch Heller (35) celebrate a touchdown run by John Harris. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Bishop got the ball back after the defense forced another three and out by the Rebels.

McKeegan ran for 12 yards and Streett took the ball on a flanker reverse for a 37-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead at 8:20.

The Quartz Hill defense then got a big dose of Harris. He bolted off left tackle for a 60-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead at 3:56 of the first quarter.

"They are very disciplined and they know exactly what they need to do," Quartz Hill coach James Vondra said to the L.A. Daily News about Bishop's offensive line. "Harris behind that is a very good running back and so it’s like a one-two punch.”

Borgeson said when the defensive and offensive units play off each other, there’s no stopping the Cardinals.

“It definitely fires you up,” he said about playing defense after Harris breaks off a long run for a touchdown. “It’s kind of like the ying and yang, if the defense does good, the offense picks up — we kind of feed off each other. It’s fun being out here with teammates and to keep winning.”

The victory sends the Cardinals into the CIF State Championship game against Shasta of Redding on Saturday, Dec. 16. The site of the game is tentatively set for La Playa Stadium, but CIF State officials could change it to Redding, according to Bishop athletic director Dan Peeters.

Down 21-0, Tago and Quartz Hill finally put together a sustained drive. The Rebels reached the Bishop 8, but the Cardinals wouldn’t let them into the end zone. Goodwin stopped Tago for no gain on third down and Borgeson blocked a pass on fourth down.

Bishop Diego defenders gang up on Quartz Hill running back Entonio Washington. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego defenders gang up on Quartz Hill running back Entonio Washington. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Harris then delivered the back breaker. On first down, he ran behind right guard, got a kick-out block from Chris Mesipan and charged into the open field for a 91-yard touchdown run. He stiff-armed a Quartz Hill defender at the 12 and spun out of a tackle attempt before finishing the amazing run for a 28-0 lead at 11:37 of the second quarter.

“It just opened up perfectly and there was a lot of space to run in and one guy to beat,” Harris said of the play. “Just keep the legs moving and good stuff ends up happening.”

Said Crawford of Harris: “The combination of strength and speed he brings, he displayed all of that tonight. A couple of runs he's running through tackles. The one long one he ends up straight-arming the kid and I see him get spun around, and he just would not be denied as he was going into the end zone. That's just the type of player he is, he never quits.”

The Cardinals scored one more touchdown before halftime. After a 20-yard Quartz Hill punt from the 3, Bishop needed only three plays to reach the end zone. After a pass interference against the Rebels, quarterback Jake Engel scrambled away from defenders, found open field and sprinted 11 yards for the score and a 34-0 lead. The PAT kick failed.

Bishop scored on its first possession of the second half. A 43-yard pass from Engel to Veal set up a 6-yard TD run by Harris for a 41-0 lead.

“This team keeps on setting the bar; they’re a great group and they deserve it,” said Crawford of earning the opportunity to play for a State Championship.

On the crazy week leading up to the game: “I know as coaches we were not sure how things would look because we only had one outdoor practice this week,” he said. “When you can’t go full speed and have to go over assignments in a gym you kind of wonder if you’re gong to be sharp and if you’re going to adjust to the speed of the opponent. I think right from the get-go we looked fast and the kids executed very, very well.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Bishop Diego football players face their fans in the stands and sing the school’s alma mater following their 41-7 CIF State Regional victory against Quartz Hill. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego football players face their fans in the stands and sing the school’s alma mater following their 41-7 CIF State Regional victory against Quartz Hill. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)
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