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Bishop Diego Routs Shasta, 41-6, to Win CIF State Football Championship

Defense overwhelms Wolves; Cardinals become first Santa Barbara County team to capture state football title

John Harris beats Shasta’s Corbin Muckel to score Bishop Diego’s first touchdown. Harris scored three TDs and rushed for 146 yards. Click to view larger
John Harris beats Shasta’s Corbin Muckel to score Bishop Diego’s first touchdown. Harris scored three TDs and rushed for 146 yards. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

THOUSAND OAKS — The motto for the Bishop Diego football team during the postseason has been, “Right Here, Right Now.”

The Cardinals took care of business Saturday night, whipping Shasta of Redding, 41-6, in the CIF Division 3AA State Championship Bowl Game at Cal Lutheran’s William Rolland Stadium.

And now they are State Champions.

It’s the first state football championship for a team in Santa Barbara County.

Star running back John Harris ran for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass, and the Bishop defense shut down Shasta's vaunted running game.

"Amazing," Bishop senior tackle Jacob Songer said. "We prepared for this day since freshman year; every single day, every practice, every summer practice. Especially this week, with the fire, we had to focus extra hard. To come out here and get this huge win, it feels amazing."

Harris, who rushed for 146 yards on 12 carries, giving him a career record of 5,126 yards, said: "Never did I think that we’d be winning a state championship. All of us, we’ve been working for years, and to come away with it is something special."

Said senior offensive guard Skip Guillen: "It was the plan we had in the beginning, and we knew were going to come out on top."

Bishop Diego football coach Tom Crawford hoists the CIF State Championship Trophy. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego football coach Tom Crawford hoists the CIF State Championship Trophy. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

As they've done throughout the six-game postseason, the Cardinals got outstanding play on both sides of the ball.

The offensive line opened the holes for the running backs, picked up Shasta's blitzes and protected the quarterbacks. 

"We’re just a family," Guillen said of the O-linemen. "We just like to go out there and do what we do and go out and execute."

Songer concurred: "We work as a family; we’re a unit. Once we get on the field, it’s strictly business. We get out there and work our butts off every single play."

The line received a solid performance from freshman Toby Pouso'o, who played center in place of an injured senior Chris Jablonka.

"He killed it — a freshman stepping in for a senior in a state championship game. That’s a big deal," Harris said of Pouso'o.

Quarterbacks Jake Engel and David Gladish each threw touchdown passes and made key scrambles to set up scores.

Junor quarterback Jake Engel threw two touchdown passes for the Cardinals. Click to view larger
Junor quarterback Jake Engel threw two touchdown passes for the Cardinals. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Linebacker Ashton Borgeson, playing like a man possessed, led a ferocious defensive unit that shut down a potent Shasta running attack and forced the Wolves to pass more than they are accustomed to.

"The idea was not let them get big yardage on first down," said coach Tom Crawford. "I felt for a good portion of the game, because of our defense, we were playing on their half of the field, which was something we were fortunate to do throughout a lot of the playoffs."

Shasta (12-2), which was without starting running back Seth Parks (rib injury), struck on its first possession of the game, scoring on a pass play. On third and 9 from the Bishop 40, quarterback Ian Garcia found Kenyon Riley over the middle and Riley sped past Bishop defenders for a 60-yard touchdown at 9:42 of the first quarter. The Wolves missed the PAT.

"The first drive was awesome. We came out fired up and ready to go and obviously it was a good play call," Garcia told Redding TV station KRCR. "From there, I think their defensive line did a really good job with our offensive line, moving bodies. We lost the offensive line battle, but I mean you gotta hand it to them, they were the better team, they proved that."

Shasta's TD was the first time Bishop had given up the first score since the Southern Section Division 6 semifinal against Saugus.

The Cardinals (15-1) answered right away, driving 68 yards for a touchdown.

"Honestly, it just boosted our confidence and we just knew that, no matter what, we’d do our job and get the dub," said Guillen of coming back from the early deficit.

David Gladdish tackles Shasta’s Dakota Mosby for a short gain after a pass. Click to view larger
David Gladdish tackles Shasta’s Dakota Mosby for a short gain after a pass. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

"The experience level and the composure we’re able to keep really helped us out," said Harris. "If it wasn’t for the good individuals we have, we wouldn’t have been able to do it and come back."

Crawford said the team remained calm.

"On the sidelines, it was just, ‘OK, not a big deal.’ I thought our kids stayed very steady throughout the game," he said. "Once again, hat’s off to a really good defensive effort. I thought we did a marvelous job in terms of getting guys to the ball and not letting them get down field too much, and getting multiple guys to the ball carriers.

"They have some guys who are very talented and run really hard, so it was important to get multiple guys to the ball carrier. I thought we forced them into situations where they had to punt a few times because they were at their end of the field early on. I'm pretty sure if they were at our end of the field they would have been going for it on fourth down. The focus of our guys in terms of just staying steady was really the key."

Engel made the key play on the Cardinals' TD drive, rolling to his left and then coming back to the right to pick up 38 yards on third and 3 from the Shasta 33. On second down, Engel passed to Harris and he took it in from 25 yards for the score. Jack Luckhurst kicked the PAT for a 7-6 lead at 6:10 of the first quarter.

"That’s just me going for it," said Engel of his run. "I see an open hole and I just run. I feel the pressure, so I just get out of there as quick as I can."

He ran for 62 yards on two carries and passed for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cardinals made it 14-7 when Harris bolted off right tackle for a 59-yard touchdown run. He got a great lead block from Borgeson to explode into the open field.  Luckhurst kicked the PAT.

"He’s a very special football player… he’s very good," said Engel of Harris. "I just give the ball to him and he’s going off."

Bishop Diego defenders smother Shasta running back Vincent Smith. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego defenders smother Shasta running back Vincent Smith. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The Bishop defense forced another Shasta punt and the offense rewarded it with 59-yard touchdown drive. Engel had a 24-yard run and then hit Evan McKeegan for an 18-yard touchdown.

McKeegan eluded two Wolves before diving and stretching the ball over the pylon for the score and a 21-6 advantage at halftime.

The Cardinals scored two passing touchdowns in the third quarter.  Engel and Veal connected on a 40-yard score and Dylan Streett caught a 15-yard pass from Gladish for a 35-6 lead with 1:22 left in the quarter.

Streett also made a huge defensive play in the third, picking off a Shasta pass at the 10-yard line and returning it to the 38.

"That was a big play by Dylan in the third quarter to get that interception when they were drving. And not just the interception but the return got us back toward midfield," said Crawford.

Harris put the finishing touch on the game and a fabulous career, running for a 19-yard touchdown with 8:15 in the fourth quarter.

The Bishop defense was outstanding in its last three championship games — the Southern Section, SoCal Regional and State — allowing just 19 total points.

The philosophical Borgeson compared the long road to the state championship to conquering a tall mountain.

"Winning a title is like a long journey up a mountain," he said. "You get setbacks with some boulders but you keep on chugging until finally you reach the top and get on the mountain and celebrate with your brothers."

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.

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