VENTURA — Bishop Diego and St. Bonaventure played another heavy-hitting, down-to-the-wire football game on Friday night in the Marmonte League opener. 

Qu’Ran Gossett powered into the end zone from 3 yards with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter to pull the Cardinals to within one point, 21-20.

Bishop Diego elected to go for the 2-point conversion and the win. Running back Misa Paiau swept to the left but was stopped by St. Bonaventure’s Zayne McCulley, and the Seraphs escaped with a 21-20 victory at Ventura College.

Bishop tried an onsides kick, but St. Bonaventure recovered as time ran out.

Bishop coach Tom Crawford said it was an unanimous decision by the coaching staff to go for two and the players wanted to go for it as well.

“It was one of those things where I started thinking about fatigue factors and who has momentum, and I thought we had momentum at that point, just the way the (touchdown) drive unfolded,” Crawford said.

The play went to Paiau as Gossett had to sit out one play after he was slow getting up after scoring the touchdown. The exhausted senior running carried the ball eight times for 54 yards on the 68-yard drive to the end zone. For the game, he rushed for 157 yards on 24 carries, often carrying defenders and moving the scrum several yards before being stopped. 

“We were going at such a pace there in the last minute in a half,” said Crawford. “It was one of those things where I think Qu’Ran emptied the gas tank pretty much the fact he was down.

“(The officials) told us he had to come off for a play because he tried to get back on the field. So even with a timeout, he had to be off the field for a play. But, that being said, we have such confidence in Misa and his toughness and how hard he runs and so forth. I suspect on that last play he made a great effort as well.”

Paiau had a solid game running the ball against a tough St. Bonaventure defense,  gaining 56 yards on 11 carries. He also did well on kickoff returns.

“Every game has been like this against Bishop Diego. It’s a defensive battle, and we hang our hat on playing great defense, and bending and not breaking,” said St. Bonaventure coach Joe Goyenche. “We made a play when we needed to and it was a gutty, gutty performance.

“That’s a good footbal team,” he said of Bishop Diego. “We knew it was going to be a battle and figured out a way to come out on top.”

St. Bonaventure’s deciding score came on an interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. With the scored tied at 14, Bishop started a drive at its 11 and moved to the St. Bonaventure 38. On first down, the Seraphs put a hard rush on quarterback AJ Vele, forcing him to throw off balance. 

St. Bonaventure corner back Drew Cofield picked off the pass and returned it 73 yards for the go-ahead score. Kicker Leilani Armenta’s PAT gave the Seraphs a 21-14 lead with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

Bishop Diego failed to come away with points on two other trips into St. Bonaventure territory in the second half. 

Linebacker Jared Barlow and defensive end Jacob Moraga made big hits in Vele and stopped him short of a first down on fourth and 16 from the 28.

Later, linebacker Jeremiah Barrios sacked Vele for a 10-yard loss on fourth and 2 from the 10

In the first half, the Seraphs blocked a punt that set up their second touchdown.

“I felt like we did a nice job of managing the clock and keeping their offense off the field with some long drives,” Crawford said. “We made some mistakes and they capitalized. The punt block was inexcusable, really, and that’s on us coaches because we had guys misaligned. So that was costly mistake.

“We told the kids at the end, if you think about the way they put points on the board, it was our lack of execution that allowed it.”

Bishop’s ability to control the ball for most of the second half enabled the Cardinals to contain St. Bonaventure’s outstanding running back Delon Thompson. 

He still rushed for 158 yards on 20 carries, but came into the game averaging more than 250 yards a game.

“I thought we tackled pretty well,” said Crawford. “In the games we’ve seen, he is so hard to bring down. He carried the ball quite a bit too, and I thought at critical times our guys did a nice job of tackling him.

“I thought our defense played really, really well against a very explosive offense.”

Thompson got the Seraphs on the board on their first series, running 11 yards for a touchdown to cap an 80-yard drive that took almost five minutes. 

Bishop responded after a 36-yard kick return by Paiau. Runs by Paiau and Gossett led the Cardinals on a 64-yard drive. Vele fired a 20-yard strike to Liam Flood for the touchdown and Bryan Trejo kicked the PAT to tie the score at 7-7 with 32 seconds left in the first quarter.

The blocked punt by Koen Glover set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Thompson, and Armenta’s PAT gave the Seraphs a 14-7 lead at 4:57 of the second quarter.

A 50-yard kickoff return by Paiau gave Bishop a short field to start its next drive. Vele scored the touchdown on an 11-yard quarterback keeper after fooling the St. Bonaventure defense with a terrific fake. Trejo’s PAT evened the score at 14-14 with 56 seconds left in the first half.

St. Bonaventure quarterback Anthony Wolter went to the air and completed passes of 9, 14 and 30 yards to move the ball to the Bishop 12. A penalty put the ball at the 7 and the Seraphs attempted a field goal from 24 yards. But Armenta hooked her kick wide, leaving the teams tied at 14-14 going into halftime.

The Marmonte League schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Cardinals as the host Oaks Christian next Friday at La Playa Stadium.

Bishop is now 4-2 on the season while St. Bonaventure is 3-3.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.