Bishop Diego scored two electrifying touchdowns against a tough St. Joseph defense. But three second-half turnovers short-circuited a comeback, and the second-ranked Cardinals suffered their first football defeat of the season, falling 21-17 to the Knights in a battle of CIF-SS Division 5 teams on Friday night at La Playa Stadium.
Bishop lost two fumbles and threw in an interception in the third quarter and let a 17-14 lead get away.
"We gave them an incredibly short field twice and allowed them to take the lead. That was because of turnovers," Bishop coach Tom Crawford said. "It wasn’t like the beginning, when they were driving the length of the field."
The mistakes spoiled a big night for running back John Harris. He finished with 203 yards on 24 carries, including a 91-yard touchdown run. It's his second straight 200-yard rushing game.
St. Joseph running back CJ Cole also a good night, rushing for 117 yards on 18 carries.
Bishop Diego falls to 3-1 while St. Joseph evens its record at 2-2.
St. Joseph capitalized on the second fumble of the third quarter – a bad pitch from the quarterback – for the winning touchdown. DJ DeResio recovered the ball at the Bishop 13 and five plays later Kaleb Monette scored from the 2 for a 21-17 lead with 6:11 left in the third quarter. The big play on the short drive was a 12-yard completion from quarterback Dino Maldonado to Justin Wong on 3rd and 11.
There was still plenty of time for Bishop to come back. The Cardinals, however, shot themselves in the foot with their third turnover of the quarter: an interception by linebacker Jason Swanson at the Knights’ 37.
"I got to do some reflecting this weekend because I really don’t know what explains that," Crawford said. "For the most part, we’ve been very good in terms of taking care of the ball and handling the ball. Our offense requires that we do that with all the motion and misdirection. Tonight we could not do it. I was disappointed because at this point of the season we got to be able to do a better job."
St. Joseph coach Dustin Davis was elated about his team's ability to force turnovers.
"Our defense in the second half was unbelievable – three turnovers," said Davis. "We just beat one of the top 3 teams in Division 5 and we’re happy with that, and we’re back in the win column."
The Knights were coming off a loss against Division 2 power St. Bonaventure. They opened the season with a loss against powerhouse Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks.
"We had our chances against both those teams," said Davis.
St. Joseph tried to go for the home run after the interception, but Bishop’s defense came up big as Tommy Murillo intercepted a pass in the end zone.
The Cardinals, using both David Gladish and Jake Engel at quarterback, put together a long drive. They reached the St. Joseph 18, where they gave the ball back to the Knights on downs with 4:21 left.
A shoestring tackle by defensive end Mike Agnoli on a scrambling Maldonado on third down gave Bishop another chance to get their hands on the ball.
"Mike adjusted as the game wore on. He certainly was a tremendous force for us on defense," said Crawford.
Taking over at its 35, Bishop turned to Harris and he bolted for 18 yards on first down. On the next play, Harris swept to the left and was tripped up for a 2-yard loss on a terrific play by Clay Will.
"They had the play and my guy just made a play. That’s what good teams do," said Davis.
The Knights got another big defensive play from Mason Biely. He made huge hit on Harris to break up a long pass on third down. Bishop threw an incomplete pass in the end zone on fourth down to end its shot at staying undefeated.
"As poorly as we played, we were fortunate to be in position where if we executed a few things we might have a chance to win the game," said Crawford.
The game opened like a track meet. St. Joseph running back CJ Cole blew through the Bishop defense for runs of 24 and 18 yards on a 60-yard scoring drive. Nate Guzman scored from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.
It was the first time Bishop trailed in game this season.
The Cardinals responded with runs of 17 and 19 yards from Murillo and Harris. But the drive stalled at the 17, and Jack Luckhurst kicked a 33-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
St. Joseph came right back. Cole ran for 18 yards down to the 1 and finished the 67-yard drive with a touchdown for a 14-3 lead.
Bishop quickly regained momentum as Isaiah Veal returned the kick 88 yards for a touchdown. Veal made a quick move to the outside and turned on his sprinter’s speed down the left sideline.
Veal was playing with a heavy heart as he learned earlier in the day that his grandmother passed away.
"It was very emotional day for him, but I thought he played extremely well," Crawford said. "You saw his track speed on that return. In order to use it, he had to make very, nice football move. He’s having an excellent season. "I'm really, really pleased with his play-making ability."
Maldonado had St. Joseph on the move again. The quarterback hit Guzman over the middle for a 52-yard play that put the ball at the Bishop 21. The Cardinals’ defense stiffened and held the Knights on downs at the 14.
Confusion on first down led to a 5-yard penalty against Bishop, putting the ball back to the 9. Then Harris took a handoff and exploded for a 91-yard touchdown run that gave the Cardinals a 17-14 lead at 11:41 of the second quarter.
The mistakes and St. Joseph’s defense would keep Bishop from scoring again.