Bishop Diego football had its season come to a close with a heartbreaking loss in double overtime to Redondo Union by a score of 29-23 in the CIF-SS Division 7 playoff opener on Friday at La Playa Stadium.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Cardinals coach Tom Crawford said. “Really, really proud, just disappointed in the outcome, obviously.”
The Cardinals had a chance to win the game in the first overtime after defensive back Danny Ortega picked off the Seahawk quarterback on their offensive drive.
However, the offense couldn’t move the ball on its drive and the game was sent into a second overtime.
There, Bishop Diego missed a 21-yard field goal on its offensive drive, setting up Redondo Union quarterback Nicholas London to hit wide receiver Cadence Turner for a game-winning 24-yard touchdown catch.
“I should’ve done a better job in the overtime,” Crawford said of the overtime struggles. “We were struggling to run the ball in our power game and I think that might’ve been a little bit of fatigue.”
The game kicked off with a quick three-and-out by the Seahawks, which the Cardinals answered with a quick three-play drive that started with a 37-yard rush by Gabe Villa and ended with a 24-yard touchdown run by Oscar Mauia to take an early 7-0 lead.
However, Bishop Diego fumbled a snap on its next offensive possession, which allowed Redondo Union to take possession of the ball deep in Cardinal territory.
They took advantage, as London plunged forward on a one-yard quarterback sneak touchdown to even the score at 7-7 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The momentum stayed with the Seahawks on the next drive, as Bishop Diego quarterback Tua Rojas threw an interception to give the ball back in good field position.
It took just one play for Redondo Union to capitalize with a 19-yard touchdown to Max Ausmus. The extra-point attempt was blocked, giving the Seahawks a 13-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
“Mistakes early in the game kind of put us in a hole and we were trying to claw our way back,” Crawford said.
The Cardinals then went back to the run game, moving down the field until they were stopped and settled for a field goal to cut the lead to 13-10 with 8:27 left in the half.
That score would hold until halftime, despite both teams registering interceptions before the break. John Michael Flint came up with the turnover for Bishop Diego.
The third quarter was a quiet one, as both teams managed just one complete drive apiece and they each ended in a turnover on downs.
However, the Cardinals opened up the fourth by completing a drive that began in the third quarter to regain the lead.
After a 10-play drive to reach Redondo Union territory, Rojas fired a strike to Flint in the endzone for a 28-yard touchdown, pulling Bishop Diego in front 17-13 with 8:36 left in the game.
“John Michael made a really nice play to get inside to take that ball,” Crawford said.
The Seahawks marched right back down the field with the help of a 30-yard completion that also included a roughing the passer penalty on the Cardinals.
“We had some missed opportunities and we had a lot of penalties that hurt us in critical situations during the game,” Crawford said.
That play put them well into Bishop Diego territory, setting the stage for a 4-yard touchdown pass to Ausmus to regain the lead at 20-17 with 4:07 remaining on the clock.
On the ensuing drive, the Cardinals were faced with a daunting 3rd and 8 at their own 22-yard line. However, Rojas never wavered, stayed alive in the pocket and hit Flint downfield for a clutch 42-yard reception to keep the drive alive.
“The one thing that [Tua] really shows is an ability to keep plays alive and keep his eyes downfield,” Crawford said of his quarterback. “As a sophomore, getting this kind of experience down the road is really going to help him going forward.
“He handles the big moments really well.”
After a pair of strong runs by Mauia and Isaiah Kitt, Mauia gave Bishop Diego the lead back with a 4-yard rushing touchdown. The extra-point attempt was no good after a bad snap, leaving the lead at 23-20 with 1:46 left.
The seesaw of the game continued on the next drive as London led the Seahawk offense down the field with the help of Ausmus, who came down with three different catches of 14 or more yards on the drive.
The Cardinal defense held strong in the red zone, forcing a 26-yard field goal by Redondo Union kicker Nicolas McGee, which he nailed to send the game into overtime, where Bishop Diego couldn’t get the job done.
Despite the loss, it was a valiant performance by a young Cardinals squad that had just two seniors on the roster in Tristan Fui and Misa Paiau. Paiau did not play all season with a knee injury.
“These young guys were fortunate to have a couple of really good senior leaders that were unselfish and kept them on task and accountable,” Crawford said. “We’ve got some growing to do, obviously, but I think the last five weeks our kids showed a tremendous amount of improvement and that bodes well for the future.”
Bishop Diego ends the season with an overall record of 4-7 after finishing in third place in the Marmonte League.