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Bishop Diego Will Face a Potent Rushing Attack from Shasta in State Bowl Game

Chris Jablonka and the Bishop Diego defense will face a run-heavy Shasta team in the CIF 3AA Division State Bowl Game on Saturday at Cal Lutheran, Click to view larger
Chris Jablonka and the Bishop Diego defense will face a run-heavy Shasta team in the CIF 3AA Division State Bowl Game on Saturday at Cal Lutheran, (JC Corliss / Noozhawk file photo)

It handled Quartz Hill’s athletic quarterback in the CIF State Regional Final and Golden Valley’s speedy wide receiver in the Southern Section Championship game.

Now, there’s one more challenging assignment for the Bishop Diego defensive unit to tackle during this long post season: stopping the potent running game of the Shasta Wolves in the 3AA Division CIF State Championship Bowl Game on Saturday at Cal Lutheran’s William Rolland Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.

The game was moved from SBCC's La Playa Stadium because of the poor air quality in Santa Barbara due to the Thomas Fire.

It's the first state championship game for both schools. Bishop Diego (14-1) is the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 champion and Shasta (12-1) is champion of the Northern Section.

"Certainly, we are thrilled to be able to compete in a State Championship bowl and have the opportunity to try and win 15 games this season,” Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford. “It has been a true team effort and we have been fortunate to have leadership on our team, particularly in our senior group, which has allowed us to be consistent in focusing on preparation for the next opponent, and in games, focusing on the next play.  This group has remained very composed in games because they refocus well.”

Shasta does its damage on the ground, averaging more than 400 yards rushing. Seniors Vincent Smith and Seth Park are the thunder and lightning of the Wolves’ backfield. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Smith hammers defenses between the tackles, while the 5-11, 175-pound Park is the speedster. They’ve both gained over 2,000 yards. Detrius Kelsall and Dakota Mosby also carry the ball.

Senior quarterback Ian Garcia does a good job managing the game for Shasta. He’s thrown only 116 passes, completing 63 for 1,037 yards and 20 touchdowns.

The offensive line, while not huge, is physical and athletic. The line is led by three seniors, Anthony Beltran (5-10, 210) and Jake Welch (5-11, 180) at guards and tackle Jim Mogen (6-3, 220). The biggest guy is sophomore tackle Kupono Kealiinohomoku (6-0, 240).

The Wolves have put up big numbers this season. In the Northern Section title game, it routed Chico, 63-26, and scored eight rushing touchdowns. Smith ran for 301 yards and Park had 150. It was their first section title since 1988.

Linebackers Troy Lyons (6-1, 225) and Kelsall (6-3, 240) spearhead the Shasta defense. Levi Peterson and Tony Deblasio are leaders on the line. Peterson has seven sacks.

The Wolves held Marin Catholic to seven points in the second half in their 40-27 victory in the Nor Cal Regional.

“Shasta, of course, is a very good and well-coached team,” Crawford said. “What they do on both sides of the ball is different than what we've faced so far, but the philosophy they follow is not.  On offense, they are run heavy with three excellent ball carriers and an effective line, running a spread version of the double wing.  They average over 400 yards a game running the ball and rarely punt, so they try to limit the opponent's possessions.

“Defensively, they play a pressure front, trying to force mistakes with lots of blitzes and stunts.  Again, they are athletic on both sides of the ball and clearly confident in what they do.” 

Bishop has been a powerhouse during the longest football playoff run of any school in Santa Barbara County. The Cardinals beat Golden Valley 37-6 for their first Southern Section title and whipped Quartz Hill, 41-7, in the So Cal Regional Final.

"Our defense has held its ground throughout the playoffs and played very well but most importantly, has been steady when we've started slowly on offense," Crawford said. "Until last game, the turnover margin in the playoffs were heavily in our favor which also tilted the field on a couple occasions allowing us to break open games or jump start the O."

Shasta coach J.C. Hunsaker has taken the Wolves to new heights in just three years. They reached the section final in his first year and fell in the semifinals last year.

Shasta left Redding on Thursday afternoon for the nearly 600-mile trip to Thousand Oaks. According to the Record Searchlight newspaper, the team was staying overnight in Santa Nella in Merced County before arriving in Thousand Oaks on Friday.

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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