The Bishop Diego football team decided to get a little payback with a fashion statement on Friday night in front of 2,500 fans at La Playa Stadium.
The Cardinals warmed up in red jerseys and white pants, then showed up for the non-league CIF Div. 5 game in an all-black ensemble that inspired them to a 13-3 upset of No. 8 St. Bonaventure.
The uniform surprise was the brainchild of senior running back Adrian Soracco, who ran for 145 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
“Man, coming out in red and then surprising them with the black, I think that intimidated them a little bit,” said Soracco. “It’s the first time we wore ‘em and we just got them this season. I kind of came up with the idea that we should come out in red and then change to black. Last year, they did a similar thing to us, so I thought we should just do it right back to them.”
Soracco and quarterback Jake Engel missed last year’s first-ever meeting with the Seraphs and the Cardinals were smothered 27-3 at Ventura College.
“If Jake and I had played last year, it would have been a much tougher battle,” said Soracco, a 6-1 senior who ran for 13, 12 and 1 yards on the last three plays of a 15-play, 92-yard drive that put the Cardinals ahead 6-3 with 4:25 left in the first half. “In the beginning, they were closing in on our line. As the game went on, we started tiring them out and our line kept improving.
“The more the game went on, the more the holes were opening up.”
The Cardinals (2-0) outrushed the Seraphs (1-1) 192-85 and enjoyed a 268-164 advantage in total yards.
With the clock under five minutes, the Seraphs were down 13-3 and tried to convert a fourth-and-6 play from their own 33. JJ Fuller made the defensive play of the game by flying up the middle on a blitz that produced a sack and an 8-yard loss.
“As soon as I heard coach call the play, I knew this was me,” said Fuller, a 5-9, 188-pound senior. “I saw my gap and took it. I nailed the kid and couldn’t believe he was still standing.”
Defensive end Zac Lopez played a solid game on his 18th birthday and Sue’ Luamanu, a 5-9, 260-pound freshman lineman, was a constant presence in the Seraphs’ backfield.
“This was a big-time atmosphere and we had some nerves at the start,” said Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford. “Once we saw Luamanu at this level in the scrimmage, we knew we had to move him up. He made a couple of big-time stops tonight.”
Bishop quarterback Buddy Melgoza was stripped of the ball on the third play of the game but then the Cardinal defense rose up and held the Seraphs to a 27-yard field goal by Simon Hernandez.
Bishop started on its own 8 on the last play of the first quarter and marched down the field in 15 plays. The third play was a wide receiver sweep by Sam Mikeale that went for a 67-yard touchdown. It was wiped out by a holding penalty.
The Cardinals committed 12 penalties for 97 yards.
Soracco rushed nine times for 56 yards in the 92-yard TD drive that lasted nearly eight minutes. His 1-yard plunge over the right side made it 6-3 late in the second quarter. A bounced snap led to a wide left PAT kick by Adam Luckhurst and the Cardinals took a 6-3 lead at the half.
The Cardinals held the Seraphs to four first downs and 76 yards in the first half. They’ve outscored their first two opponents 64-9 this year.
“Our defense played lights-out and actually got better as the night wore on,” said Crawford. “They have a very effective passing attack and it felt like we shut them down.”
St. Bonaventure’s 6-5 senior quarterback Gavin Beerup was 6-for-14 passing for 65 yards. Melgoza was much more effective, completing 5-8 for 76 yards and averaging 15.2 yards per completion. Mikeale caught three balls for 44 yards.
“The black jerseys was the kids’ idea and I said as long as the fashion show doesn’t interfere with your focus, it’s OK,” chuckled Crawford.
Crawford said his team is making assignment errors “because it’s still early in the year” but the penalties were more of a concern.
“Last week, we several positive plays that went the wrong direction due to penalties and there were some tonight also,” Crawford noted. “But I thought we maintained our physicality for four quarters which was nice to see. We should have finished that drive at the end and not put our defense back on the field. This was a good test for us.”
Bishop got the only score of the second half on its first possession of the third quarter. The Cardinals took over on their own 35 after forcing a three-and-out. Nine straight runs, including six by Soracco for 55 yards, led to pay dirt – a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Melgosa for the TD. He was stopped initially, then broke out and leaped over the left tackle spot into the end zone.
Luckhurst’s PAT made it 13-3 with 7:19 to go in the third.
The Cardinals thwarted the visitors from Ventura by ending three straight drives with fourth-down defensive heroics. On fourth-and-6 from the Bishop 31, Soracco and James Arrellanes stopped a pass play for no gain in the third quarter.
The Seraphs started on their own 6 on their next drive and went 58 yards in 12 plays to the Cardinal 46. On fourth-and-1, Beerup faked a handoff and was immediately stuck by Declan Handwerker for a 4-yard loss.
The Cardinals have another tough assignment next Friday when they travel to perennial powerhouse Lompoc on Friday for a 7 p.m. game. The Braves (1-1), who just lost starting quarterback Cameron Iribarren to a season-ending injury, are ranked No. 4 in Div. 5.