There would be no explosive John Harris scoring runs or long drives down the field for touchdowns.
On this night, the Bishop Diego offense was shut down by a Santa Fe Christian team that was on a mission. The Eagles of Solana Beach smothered Harris and the Cardinals for a 20-0 football victory on Saturday at La Playa Stadium. It was their first win over Bishop in five meetings.
“This has been on our calendar since January,” said SFC coach Jon Wallace. “We’ve been working really hard at it.”
The hard work paid off. The Eagles (3-1) kept Bishop (3-2) from scoring on four trips inside the red zone.
“Our kids take pride in that. They don’t want points on the board, ever,” said Wallace.
“We seem to shoot ourselves in the foot when we get into the red zone,” Bishop coach Tom Crawford said. “We got to get past that. You can’t play good teams and leave points on the field.”
It was the first game since playing Oaks Christian in 2008 that Bishop was shut out.
Santa Fe Christian made sure Harris wouldn’t beat them. After posting back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances, the powerful junior running back was held to 59 yards on 16 carries.
Wallace said he didn’t assign a player to mark Harris.
“We’re going to read our keys and just play physical,” he said of defending against him. “The big thing for that kid is he runs so hard. We just said we want to get 11 hats on the ball; no one man is going to bring him down. Our kids did that.”
“They contained him,” said Crawford of SFC’s defense on Harris. “I don’t think we got outside of them once in the game, so they were, very, very disciplined. They’re always disciplined and well coached. They certainly deserved to win that.”
Bishop’s defense played well. End Mike Agnoli was in on several tackles. But the defense was on the field a lot because the offense had trouble sustaining drives.
Crawford used both senior David Gladish and sophomore Jake Engel at quarterback for the second straight game.
“I’m trying to give the guys a mental break a little bit,” he said of rotating the pair. “I thought last week we were a little overwhelmed. So, the idea of rotating was to give them the opportunity to kind of take a breath between plays and reflect on that.
“In honesty, I thought the guys showed some improvement in terms of delivering the ball. They have to be more aware of field position and down and distance in terms of the decisions they make. They both competed and I think they got a little bit better. They both have the potential to manage our offense but we got to improve.”
A decision to hold the ball and get sacked in the final seconds of the first half cost the Cardinals a scoring chance.
Santa Fe Christian led 6-0 at halftime as Bishop’s defense kept the talented Eagles out of the end zone. Brent Hewitt kicked field goals from 33 and 40 yards for their points.
Santa Fe Christian finally broke through for a touchdown on its first possession of the second half. Quarterback Conner Whitton led the Eagles on a 76-yard drive and passed 6 yards to wide receiver Matt McCroskey for the score and a 13-0 lead.
Gladish hit Will Goodwin on a 37-yard pass play to put Bishop on the SFC 9. Goodwin suffered a knee injury on the play. Gladish was dropped for a 3-yard loss on first down and sacked for a loss of 16 on third down to put the ball back to the 25. A fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Santa Fe Christian put the game out of reach with a touchdown. Whitton hit 6-foot-5 Caleb Phillips on a short pass and Phillips bounced off a tackler and took off for a 64-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Bishop reached the red zone twice in the fourth quarter and came up empty. On the first visit, SFC forced a fumble at the goal line and recovered in the end zone. The second time, the Cardinals reached the 8 and threw three incomplete passes.
“We’re having to learn right now to deal with a little adversity,” Crawford said. “Things aren’t necessarily going our way as easily as we like. We got to figure out ways to generate enthusiasm and some success. We’re still learning and fortunately we’re only five games in, so, hopefully, we can take some lessons from these (losses) and improve.”