Playing on their opponents’ turf, the Bishop Broncos scorched the Desert Scorpions Thursday night, 61-20, to officially claim the High Desert League Championship for the second straight year. Bishop is seeded number one in the Northeast Division with a 5-0 league record, 9-1 overall.
Desert brought all the weapons in their arsenal to the game, but most of them backfired. The Scorpions, tied with Kern, Frazier and Cal City at 2-2 going into the final league game, had to play spoiler to the Broncos to have a shot at making the playoffs.
One thing the Scorpions did accomplish was scoring nearly twice as many points against the Broncos than any other league opponent. Cal City managed 12 points in the league opener; Bishop shut out everybody else.
The Scorpions’ first trick to start the game was an on-side kick. It didn’t work. Darren Spoonhunter came up with the ball and Bishop started their first charge at midfield. Jaime Ruelas deducted 24 yards on two runs, moving the Broncos to Desert’s 15. From there, quarterback Chance Callahan broke tackle and went in for Bishop’s first TD. Chris Frohreich added the point-after and the Broncos led 7-0.
The Broncos’ defense got a good look at the Scorpions’ strong running back, Watler Burghardt, on Desert’s first possession. Between Burghardt and the Scorpions’ spread offense, the Broncos’ defense scrambled to contain Desert’s 74-yard drive into the end zone.
Scorpion quarterback Jeff-Ray Delator capped off the drive with a dive into the end zone. The 2-point conversion failed, thanks to Keith Tatum, and Desert was knocking on the door at 7-6.
Bishop recovered Desert’s second on-side kick at midfield, but gave away a TD at first and goal when the Scorpions forced a fumble and covered the ball.
Desert capitalized on the turnover mounting another 75-yard assault that ended in another Delator TD to start the second quarter. For the first time in league play, the Broncos were behind, 7-12.
It took Bishop three plays to regain the lead. Jerry Castillo recovered Desert’s on-side kick at midfield. Callahan handed off to Ryan Devore for an 18-yard gain. That worked so well he did it again for a 15-yard gain, setting Bishop up at Desert’s 15.
A fake to Devore and hand-off to Ruelas put Bishop ahead by a nose at 14-12.
On the kick return, Bishop’s Sam DeLaMora and Frohreich’s speed nailed the Scorpions deep in their own territory. Desert couldn’t move the ball on a possession that ended with a Matt Doonan sack.
Desert tried for a fourth-down conversion by pulling another rabbit out of its hat but Thomson smothered the bunny and set up Bishop on Desert’s 10.
A 12th Bronco in the huddle sent Bishop back to the 15. Ruelas got the hand off, headed up left field with a swarm of blockers and put Bishop ahead 20-12.
Midway through the second quarter, Bishop had Desert’s offense figured out. Desert went four downs, gaining 1 yard, tried for another conversion but Corey Thomson stepped up and shut it down.
From their own 42, Bishop gained a first on a QB keeper; another first on a pass completion to Matt Babb. Ruelas got a 12-yard gain; Devore made a 13-yard TD run and Bishop was out of danger at 27-12.
Desert’s Burghardt came back to life with a 30-yard run to Bishop’s 20. Schain Thomson forced a fumble; Doonan recovered it and Bishop was back in business.
The Broncos moved from their own 19 to Desert’s 28 on runs by Callahan and pass plays to Babb and Kyle Batchelder. Callahan got sacked for a 6-yard loss. Then Bishop showed Desert how tricks were supposed to be executed. Callahan handed off to Devore who handed off to Batchelder who flicked it back to Callahan who sent it on to Devore for a 35-yard TD play and a 34-12 lead at the end of the half.
Desert was on the receiving end to start the second half. On Delator’s first pass play, Devore intercepted the ball, giving Bishop possession on the Scorpion’s 19.
Bishop’s line blew a hole through the Scorpions’ defense, giving Callahan a 14-yard gain. He finished the plan with a 5-yard TD run. Spoonhunter completed the 2-pointer and Bishop took a 42-12 lead.
Starting from Bishop’s 35, Desert slogged down field, completed a fourth-down conversion and ended the drive with Delator’s and Desert’s third TD. The 2-pointer succeeded. The score: 42-20.
Bishop struck again with the seconds ticking off the quarter clock. Callahan and Ruelas ran the ball from Bishop’s 31 to midfield. Devore took it to the 20 and Callahan broke loose for the TD and a 49-20 lead.
With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Desert fumbled on the first play of its reception and Spoonhunter recovered. Callahan connected with Cy Scott for a 20-yard gain. Callahan finished with a TD and Bishop led 55-20.
Devore intercepted a Delator pass, setting Bishop up at Desesrt’s 26. With Evan Richman as his decoy, Callahan went in for a 19-yard TD and a 61-20 lead.
Broncos’ Ignacio Santana’s kick bounced off a Scorpion and into Bishop’s hands. Bishop moved the ball to Desert’s 40, then took delay of game penalties with less than a minute left in the game.
Bishop moves on to the first round of CIF playoffs with a home game Friday, Nov. 18. The Broncos’ opponent will be named Sunday afternoon.