Misa Paiau, pictured at practice, will be the focal point of this year's Bishop Diego offense. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk Photo)

Defenses facing the Bishop Diego Cardinals the last two years had the near-impossible task of slowing down powerhouse running back Qu’Ran Gossett.

With Gossett now graduated and at the University of Texas at El Paso, the power-back role has been passed on to Misa Paiau.

“I know [Gossett] carried us last year, so I’m trying to live up to that,” Paiau said at a recent practice.

Although he backed up Gossett last year, the 215-pound Paiau still put up impressive numbers on his way to First Team All-Marmonte League honors.

Like Gossett, his strength and tenacity allowed him to plow through tacklers and move the pile for extra yardage. Paiau carried the ball 79 times for 779 yards, good for an average of 9.9 yards per carry.

On top of this, he added six touchdowns and had three games of 100 rushing yards or more.

His stellar play earned him his first Division-I scholarship offer from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Bishop Diego head coach Tom Crawford believes there will be more offers on the horizon for his senior running back.

“If [Paiau] does what I’m pretty confident he will do, I think he’ll have some additional offers pretty early in the season,” Crawford said.

What Paiau brings to the game is game-breaking speed and the power to break tackles.

“He is one of the more talented players I’ve seen here,” Crawford said. “He’s instinctive, physical and aggressive.

“Hopefully, the running game doesn’t skip any beats.”

His instinctive and aggressive style will be much needed on a Cardinals squad that has just two seniors, Paiau and lineman Tristan Fui.

On top of the on-the-field highlights and production, Paiau is being counted on to contribute as a leader, something that is unfamiliar to him.

“Leadership is a hard thing, it’s a new thing for me,” he said. “I’m trying to fight and be a good leader for this year.”

He most definitely will be needed to lead a young defensive unit at linebacker.

On a senior-heavy 2022 team, he finished fourth on the squad with 51 total tackles and shared the team lead with three interceptions.

Paiau and the Cardinals begin the season on Saturday, Aug. 19, against Foothill of Santa Ana at La Playa Stadium.

Noozhawk sports writer Diego Sandoval can be reached at dsandoval@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter @NoozhawkSports