The Bishop Broncos’ 2011 football season came to an end Friday night in Lancaster. The High Desert League Champion Broncos lost to the Desert Christian Knights, 7-14, in the second round of CIF playoffs.
It would be easy to say this year’s Broncos were a young team in the process of defining their own personality as coach Bill Egan described early in the season. The team was coming into its own, incorporating new players into key positions, overcoming penalties and mistakes with an explosive offense and brick-wall defense. Then the Broncos got hit with the loss of quarterback Chance Callahan last week in the first round of playoffs.
None of that helped, but the simple fact is the Knights played their game and the Broncos didn’t. Bishop turned in some solid plays, but the Knights eroded away the field and the clock, converting on downs, overcoming big penalties, their double wing offense a battering ram through the Broncos’ defense for running backs Chance Gusbeth and Kiel Alcaraz, the equivalent of two of Bishop’s Jaime Ruelas. Desert Christian did its homework and corralled Ruelas, limiting his 10-yard average per run.
Most high school coaches understand the importance of attitude. Friday night, the Knights had the winning attitude.
The Knights took the opening kick-off with good field position on their own 44. A 15-yard penalty pushed them back but Gusbeth rounded the corner and gained the penalty yardage back. The Bishop offense battered away at the Knights’ running game but the Knights battered back. In Bishop territory, Desert’s fullback Josh Kay drove to the 3-yard line, brought down by Bishop’s Matt Babb. Ruelas took out Kay in the backfield for a 3-yard loss, but Gusbeth made it into the endzone. With the point-after, the Knights’ took a 0-7 lead, erasing nearly half the time off the quarter clock on its 56-yard drive.
Bishop’s Ryan Devore took the kick-off on the 5 and sprinted to the 30. Ruelas worked his magic on two runs, giving Bishop a third and short. Quarterback Kyle Batchelder took off on a QB keeper for a 34-yard gain, coming close to the Knights’ red zone. There, Bishop stalled out to a fourth and 1. Batchelder went for a pass to Jerry Castillo in heavy coverage, but the ball glanced off his fingers. The Knights regained possession on downs with just two minutes on the clock.
The Knights slogged away, running into the second quarter, but were held to a scant 10-yard gain on the drive by Ruelas, Dustin Waasdorp, Schain Thomson and Keith Tatum on defense.
With the help of a 5-yard encroachment penalty on the Knights, Bishop drove to their own 32. A Batchelder fake to Evan Richman and hand-off to Ruelas put Bishop near midfield. A bad snap moved the Broncos back and an incomplete pass forced a punt at fourth and 16. The football gods smiled on Bishop when Devore’s punt bounced off the foot of the Knights’ receiver and Sammy DeLaMora recovered the ball, giving Bishop possession on the Knights’ 40.
The gods’ benevolence was short-lived; the Knights were on Ruelas like white on rice and the Broncos went three downs and punted at fourth and six.
The Knights’ gained 30 yards on their possession, setting up shop on Bishop’s 36. Devore stripped the ball from Alcaraz and Tatum recovered for the Broncos with less than a minute left in the half.
Devore was on fire with a 15-yard gain up the middle following a QB sack and 9-yard loss; he got the first down on the Knights’ 41 with just over a second on the clock. The Knights’ coach, Israel Ifeanychukwu who used time-outs as an additional weapon to dilute Bishop’s momentum, took a time-out Batchelder went for an unsuccessful Hail Mary to Cy Scott to end the half.
Bishop was on the receiving end of the kick-off to start the second half and launched a five-minute drive down field, starting on their own 16. With blocking from Mario Cerros, Ruelas nailed the first on the 28; Babb ate up another 8 yards with blocking from Richman and Matt Doonan. An incidental facemask penalty against the Knights gave Bishop a first at its own 42. Bachelder handed off to Devore for a 20-yard gain, penetrating Desert Christian territory. Batchelder followed Tatum, in as tight end, for a 12-yard gain to the 17.
With nothing to lose on fourth and 5 at the 12, Batchelder executed a pump fake and flew up an open lane to the 1-yard line. The QB faked to Richman;, then dove head first over the goal line. Frohreich’s point-after ended the 83-yard drive to tie the score 7-7.
The TD fired up the Bishop defense forcing a Knights’ punt at fourth and 8, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Knights’ the elusive first down. Again, the defense held and three downs later, the Knights punted the ball back to Bishop.
With a minute left on the clock, Bishop was forced to punt. Thomson sent the ball 50-yards where it rolled to the Knights’ 2 yard line. The Knights’ mantra for the next 11 minutes was “possession is 9/10s of the law.” They held onto the ball through 21 plays, gnawing the clock down to 2:30, capping the 98-yard drive with a TD from the 1-foot line on fourth and goal taking a 7-14 lead.
The Knights’ kick went into the end zone, putting Bishop on their own 20. The Broncos gained 2 yards in four downs, turning the ball back to the Knights on downs.
The Knights fumbled the ball on their first play from Bishop’s 21 and the Broncos had one more chance. Batchelder connected with Babb for a 21-yard gain with 1:33 left in the game. The next pass was intercepted and the Knights were prepared to take a knee to gobble up the final 1:28 on the clock. Despite a delay of game on third down, the Knights punted the ball back to Bishop with 1.2 seconds on the clock. In what could have been the play of the century, Thomson picked up what looked like a dead ball and headed toward the end zone, passing to Tatum at Desert’s 20 as he was swarmed by Knights. The pass was illegal, but nonetheless heroic.
The Bishop Broncos left Lancaster with their HDL championship and a 10-2 season intact. They overcame the early loss to Sierra Canyon and battered the Bishop of La Jolla Knights, a feather in any team’s cap. They have a lot to be proud of, but those would have been hollow words on the long bus ride home from Lancaster.