When a team loses its season opener, the initial response is to look at the what-ifs. What if Whittier Christian kicker, Derek Bush, hadn’t made 4 field goals, and the score would have been 29-20 instead of 41-20, a much more palatable points spread. There are probably a dozen more “what-ifs” to be analyzed, but it’s all fairly pointless. The Bishop Broncos lost to the very strong, seasoned Heralds Friday night.
So, let’s dwell on the highlights: Bishop held the Heralds to one TD in the first quarter, ending with a 7-7 tie. Down 23-7 at half-time, the Broncos looked much more organized, coming back with 2 touchdowns in the third quarter to draw within 6 points of Whittier Christian and holding the Heralds to 1 lonely field goal for a 26-20 score at the buzzer.
“I thought we could pull it off,” said coach Bill Egan of the tight score at the half. “We just couldn’t overcome our mistakes. It was a comedy of errors.” Bishop suffered through four quarters with bad field position; Whittier Christian enjoyed the opposite which didn’t help the Broncos’ cause.
Egan had high praise for his defense. “Our defense is good; our offense will be.” This year’s Broncos’ team includes a decent number of seniors, but not all have game experience, which, Egan said, limits play options. “A lot of (the mistakes) were early game jitters,” he said. “But I’m confident. I like these boys, they’re smart. In five weeks, this will be a different team.”
The Heralds were on the receiving end to start the game on their own 35. Despite some serious hits from David Tanksley, Nico Roccoforte, Carl Olsen and Desmond Frank, Whittier Christian pressed the 65 yards down field, ending on a 9-yard run, a completed point-after and a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos went 4 downs, the highlight of which was an 11-yard gain by Noah Stevens and punted. By the Heralds’ second possession, the Bishop defense had a better line on its opponent. The Broncos held the Heralds to an 8-yard gain, forcing a punt, perhaps the only bad kick the team would see off the foot of the Heralds’ kicker. Bishop regained possession on the Heralds’ 31-yard line. Stevens picked up 2 yards; a 5-yard encroachment penalty gave the Broncos another gain; Stevens gained 5 on a pitch from quarterback Olsen and Bishop was 20 yards away from the goal line. Stevens went back to work for a 6-yard gain, dragging half the Heralds’ defense with him to put the ball on Whittier Christian’s 15. Olsen stayed with what was working, got the ball to Stevens who bobbed and weaved his way, untouched, into the end zone. The point-after went and Bishop was tied 7-7.
The Heralds tried, for 3:44, to end the quarter with a wider margin. The Broncos’ defense, and Whittier Christian’s own penalties, kept it from happening. The Heralds crossed midfield in three plays, advanced to Bishop’s 37 on a run then QB Ryan Esslinger suffered back-to-back incompletions, the second broken up by pressure from Bishop’s Tanksley. Hunter Kampmoyer leveled Esslinger on a keeper that just netted a yard and the Heralds were faced with 4th and 9. With the clock ticking and not much to lose, the Heralds went for it on a pass play to Noah Evans. Olsen limited the gain to 12 yards with a timely hit, but the Heralds were threatening at Bishop’s 24. Whittier’s Nick Watase put the ball at Bishop’s 5. Kampmoyer and Cam White held the offense for no gain with 24 seconds left on the clock. Esslinger romped into the end zone, but the TD was called back for holding. At 2nd and goal on the 10, Olsen broke up a pass; Esslinger missed a wide-open Watase and the Heralds got another holding penalty, moving Whittier Christian back to the 20. Another incomplete pass and the buzzer ended the quarter at a 7-7 tie.
Bishop got its first look at Bush’s abilities when the Heralds started the second quarter with a successful field goal to take back the lead 10-7. Bishop lost possession on a sack and loose ball. From Bishop’s 29, the Heralds stalled out. Tanksley swarmed a pass receiver for only a 3-yard gain; White leveled Esslinger for a loss. The Bishop defense applied heavy pressure for another Esslinger incompletion but Rush stepped back up to make a 40-yard field goal and Whittier increased its lead 13-7.
Bishop went four and punted. The Bronco defense did a good job of annoying Esslinger and aborting runs. At fourth and 5 on Bishop’s 20, Rush came in for another 3-pointer and a 16-7 Herald lead.
Starting from their own 20, the Broncos made good progress, advancing 13 yards, with another 15 thrown in on a Herald personal foul. An interception gave Whittier possession at its own 39. Another foul gave the Heralds a second and 20, but Esslinger connected with Evans. Thomas Montoya saved the pass completion from turning into a TD, but the Heralds just kept coming, scoring from Bishop’s 7 for a 23-7 lead.
The final three minutes of the half are best forgotten, with two exceptions: Bishop’s Roland McClean blew through the Herald line for a QB sack and a 9-yard loss; with 17 seconds on the clock, Whittier went for another field goal, only to have Bush’s kick blocked. Hurrah!
A reinvigorated Bishop offense came on the field for the third quarter. Starting from their own 20 on the touch back, the Broncos pulled off the longest gain of their game. Olsen pitched the ball to White who powered to the Heralds’ 30 for a 48-yard gain, and the crowd went wild. Tony Russell and Stevens gobbled up 15 yards rushing. At fourth and 5, Olsen let fly to White; flagrant pass interference was called against the Heralds and Bishop was at the 10. Russel gained 6; Stevens danced in from the four. The 2-point conversion failed but Bishop was within 10 points at 23-13.
The Broncos defense kept the Heralds out of the end zone on their next possession, but Bush came in at fourth and 11 for a, you guessed it, field goal and a 26-13 score.
Bishop’s Alexis Barajas returned Whittier’s kick to the Broncos’ 30. Russell got the ball to the Heralds’ 37; Stevens wove through the Herald defense for a 9-yard gain. From Whittier’s 22, Stevens scooped up a loose ball and headed into the end zone, the PAT was good and Bishop was within 6 at 26-20.
The defense held the Heralds through the final two minutes of the quarter.
The fourth quarter is best forgotten. The Heralds turned their first possession over on downs, but Bishop had to punt the ball away with 7:17 still on the clock. The Heralds took advantage of a bad hop on the punt, and went 63 yards ending in a Watase TD and successful 2-point conversion to extend the lead 34-20. The Broncos turned the ball over on downs at their own 13 with 3:42 left in the game; the Heralds capitalized for their final touchdown and the 41-20 win.
The Broncos have a bye this Friday, then head to Mammoth for the traditional rout Sept. 13. Egan doesn’t like the two-week layover but it is what it is. Bishop will have a baptism by fire with three tough teams before the High Desert League opener at Cal City, Oct. 18: Desert Christian, Rim of the World and Sierra Canyon.