So, who wants to see a blowout, anyway?
Bishop Diego High certainly wouldn’t object to winning a lopsided game, and the Cardinals were well on their way to one Friday night at La Playa Stadium until, well, until they weren’t.
After Bishop took a 41-7 lead early in the second half, Nipomo rallied and made a game of it, enough of one, in fact, that the Cardinals had to make a red-zone stop in the final minute to come off the field with a 41-28 win.
The victory evened the record at 2-2 for the Cardinals after two straight losses to highly ranked opponents. Nipomo lost for the first time after three opening wins.
“We did get a glimpse of how we can play,” said Bishop coach Tom Crawford after surveying a dominating first half in which quarterback Jake Engel threw for 251 yards and Adrian Soracco scored four touchdowns. “Now we need to learn to play four quarters.”
After Bishop’s quick score on an 18-yard TD run by Alec Rubio following a fumble recovery on Nipomo’s first second-half possession in the third quarter, it looked like the fourth quarter in this game would be played with a running clock, the high school version of a mercy rule. But Nipomo refused to go away quietly and, in fact, spent most of the rest game running plays, a whopping 41 to only 14 for the Cardinals.
After a stretch of nearly 20 minutes without a first down in the first half, the Titans rushed 32 times for 147 yards in the second half, including an 11-minute period in the third quarter where they ran 23 plays to just 2 for Bishop, thanks to a successful on-sides kick sandwiched between 2-yard TD runs by Ricky Iniguez and Keyshawn Pu’a.
A blocked punt by Declan Coles on Bishop’s next possession led to a 4-yard touchdown pass by Brayden Groshart to Carmelo Hernandez. Groshart’s 49-yard TD pass to Wyatt Omohundra in the opening minutes of the game, a score that put Nipomo ahead 7-0, seemed a distant memory at that point.
“To tell the truth, I was kind of the same mindset (about the running clock scenario),” said Nipomo coach Tony Dodge of his thoughts at halftime. “The first half was the worst we have looked all year. I was just hoping the boys would respond.
“I told them we could either be the bitch or the boss,” he continued. “We were the bitch in the first half. We were completely dominated by them physically. So, I’m really proud of how we played in the second half. We were much more physical…but we can’t play just one half of football.”
Nipomo held Engel (10-fo-16) to just one completion for six yards in the second half and intercepted him once. A couple of fruitless possessions by both teams followed, but the Titans gave the Bishop faithful cause for concern when they drove to the Bishop 13 in the waning minutes. A double-reverse pass play fell short with 10 seconds left, however, allowing Bishop to run out the clock without having to scramble to recover another on-sides kick.
Soracco rushed 14 times for 131 yards, scoring on runs of 4, 4, and 15 yards and also returned an interception 25 yards for a score.
“Adrian really picked his game up for us on both sides of the ball,” said Crawford. “And I was really pleased with our offensive line. We started to execute and play at the pace we wanted. Jake did a good job and Isiah (Morones) made some big plays.”
Morones grabbed eight passes for 158 yards and a 16-yard touchdown pass. Ryan Flood hauled in a 60-yard pass and broke up several pass plays defensively before suffering a leg injury in the second half.
Nipomo was led by Iniguez with 77 yards on 17 carries and Pu’a with 57 yards on 12 carries. Groshart completed 9-of-22 passes for 122 yards.
“It’s a real credit to them,” said Crawford of the Titans’ second-half effort. “Coach Dodge has created a group of committed guys. When they got the momentum going, we struggled to stop them. We need to learn that we need to be more in control, when we are in control. So there are lessons to learn from this game. There are lessons to learn in every game.”
The next chance for that is Friday at Canyon High against Golden Valley, a rematch of last year’s CIF-SS championship game.