Epic. The game of the century. The stuff of which movies are made.
However you describe what amounted to the Bishop Broncos’ league championship football game against the Kern Valley Broncs, it was, incontestably, one really exciting game. For the few Owens Valley residents who haven’t already heard: Bishop was behind by 3 points on Kern’s 9 yard line with one second on the game clock; a Kyle Batchelder pass sailed into the hands of Curran Simpson and Bishop won by 3 at 34-31.
“I’m happy,” said coach Bill Egan, the master of understatement. “I’m proud of the boys. They were able to overcome adversity. Ryan (Devore), Kyle, Corey (Thomson), Curran all had great games. The team came with incredible energy.”
When a pass completion to Cy Scott put the Broncos on Kern’s 4-yard line with five seconds on the clock, there was always that option of tying the game with a field goal. But, that’s not the Broncos’ style, even when the first pass play went incomplete and sucked four seconds off that clock.
“We had them on their heels,” said Egan. “We’d practiced that play a lot. The same play worked for a touchdown (earlier in the game). The kids were pushing to go for it and we went for it.”
Bishop did not bring a flawless game and the officiating was far from flawless. In hindsight, that all just contributed to the excitement of the outcome. But at the time, it was unnerving.
“You have to be lucky to overcome five turnovers,” said Egan. Four of those turnovers were on fumbles. “It shows great character and discipline to perform at that high a level,” said Egan.
The Broncos still have to beat the Rosamond Road-runners this Thursday at home to officially claim the High Desert League championship. Rosamond comes into the game with a 0-4 record. You do the math.
Bishop started the game with a Noah Stevens’ 32-yard kick return. From their own 35, the Broncos went into a no-huddle strategy moving the ball to Kern’s 24 on runs by Devore behind blocks from Dustin Waasdorp. Then Bishop fumbled the ball and Kern Valley recovered. To rub salt into that wound, a 15-yard personal foul was called against Bishop. Kern started their run-up-the-middle offense on a drive that ended in the end zone and a 0-7 lead.
Stevens gave Bishop decent field position, on its own 32, on the kick return. The Broncos moved the ball 51 yards in five plays, but ended the drive with Kern Valley stripping the ball. As Egan said, Bishop was moving the ball well, seemingly at will. It was the end of those drives that was startlingly atypical.
This turnover ended better than the first. Between Hunter Kampmoyer, David Tanksley, Corey Thomson and Roman Amisone, Kern Valley’s gains were short and the drive ended in a punt.
The Broncos mounted a scoring drive from their own 27, starting with two consecutive first downs on runs from Stevens and Batchelder. From near midfield, Devore slipped tackles for a fourth down conversion to Kern’s 22. Devore finished the drive with consecutive runs, the final one into the end zone. Drake Trimbell added the point-after and Bishop tied the score 7-7.
Kern retook the lead 7-10 on a field goal after hitting Bishop’s defensive brick wall. Bishop’s next drive was going as planned until Kern intercepted a pass, regaining possession just into Bronco territory. Kern pushed to Bishop’s 8 and scored on a pass play for a 7-17 lead.
The Broncos started the second half forcing Kern to punt at fourth-and-5. Bishop fumbled the ball back to Kern, but Batchelder retaliated with a pass interception on Kern’s second play of the possession. From midfield, Batchelder faked to Olson, passed to Simpson who sprinted into the end zone narrowing the score 13-17. Trimbell was roughed on the point-after and sent the ball through the uprights after the penalty.
Kern amassed 30 yards worth of penalties, a personal foul and another roughing the kicker, setting up the perfect scenario for an on side kick. Waasdorp squibbed the ball, Bronco Jose Jimenez recovered, giving Bishop exquisite field position on Kern’s 14. At second-and-4, Devore broke tackles and went in for his second TD of the night, giving Bishop a 21-17 lead.
Bishop stuffed Kern deep in its own territory, forcing a punt. Simpson signaled for a fair catch, but got nailed. The personal foul set Bishop up at Kern’s 29. Batchelder straight-armed his way to the 17; Stevens got a first at Kern’s 10, then ran the ball to the 1. Devore finished the drive with a TD, giving Bishop what looked like a secure lead at 28-17.
Kern’s next position ended in a punt after an Amisone sack that handed Kern a fourth-and-10. Devore went the distance on the punt, but the TD was called back when an official indicated Devore had stepped out of bounds at Kern’s 32.
Bishop started the fourth quarter from Kern’s 25, slogged its way to the 1 on a QB keeper. A Kern Bronc stripped the ball, leaving a bewildered Bronco offense who obviously thought the ball was dead. Apparently, it was still alive.
With that gift, Kern gobbled up just under five minutes on a TD drive. The 2-point conversion put Kern within 3 points of Bishop at 28-25.
Stevens gave Bishop good field position on the kick return, but a block in the back penalty and personal foul against Bishop moved the Broncos to their own 15 with a third-and-27. Bishop punted. With just over three minutes left on the clock, Kern switched to a spread offense and started passing. From Bishop’s 35, Kern scored a TD on a pass play to take the lead at 28-31. Bishop had the ball and just over a minute left in the game.
The Broncos started their epic drive on their own 35. Simpson gained 13 yards on a pass reception, but the next two attempts went incomplete. At third-and-10, 44 seconds on the clock, Batchelder got sacked for a loss. Now, it’s fourth-and-15 on Bishop’s 43 with 30 seconds on the clock. Behind a block from Scott, Batchelder scrambled to Kern’s 39, then went long to Scott who got out of bounds at Kern’s 4. A procedure call against Bishop sent them back to the 9, with 5 seconds on the clock. Batchelder’s first pass was hurried and fell incomplete, but there was still a second left in the game. The next attempt was textbook to Simpson, giving Bishop the epic 34-31 win.
Egan isn’t taking Rosamond for granted; no coach in his right mind would at this stage of the game. “They’ve got good athletes, they’re big,” he said, “and they’ve had some tight games.”
The final league game will be played Thursday, Nov. 1, rather than the traditional high school football Friday, to give CIF time to figure out the first round brackets. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.