The COVID-19 pandemic forced several high schools to scramble to find football opponents this spring, but Bishop Diego High assistant coach Mike Luckhurst waited until Monday’s Athletic Round Table press luncheon to name the perfect opponent for this year’s Cardinals:
It would’ve been the 2017 Cardinals.
“This team was as good as that 2017 team that won state,” said Luckhurst, Bishop’s special teams coach and the father of three sons who’ve come through the program. “I know they’re disappointed that they didn’t get the chance to show that.”
Bishop won all five of its games during an abbreviated season that was delayed for seven months by the coronavirus.
Luckhurst brought three of the team’s “dynamic” linemen — Semisi Falemaka, Parker Maho and Logan Maho — to Monday’s luncheon at the Creekside Restaurant. They helped pave the way for the Cardinals’ potent running game.
“They were men on the football field,” he said.
Dos Pueblos team captains Alonzo Cruz and Daniel Santa Cruz were the mature leaders who helped the Chargers weather the crazy season of COVID and win their season finale against San Marcos, 34-24.
“There were so many opportunities to just buy out and hang it up,” coach Doug Caines said. “But Alonzo has grinded out this season with us. He showed up day in and day out, working on his craft, and in his last game put in a lockdown performance at defensive back as well as running back.
“Daniel did an amazing job leading this team as the vocal leader, especially while not knowing if we’d actually even be playing football. He’s a special kid, and it was a great way for him to finish the season by winning the Jeff Hesselmeyer Award as the Player of the Game (against San Marcos).”
San Marcos athletic director Abe Jahadhmy relayed coach Jason Fowle’s high praise for linebacker Joaquin Salazar and running back Aaron Broumand.
“Sal is an outstanding student and one of our captains, and he was all over the field for our defense all year long,” Jahadhmy said in quoting Fowle. “Sal is a tough kid who was a positive light in every situation.
“Aaron was the leading rusher last week with 75 yards and is one of the most intellectual young men I’ve ever met. As a four-year team member, his work ethic was second to none.”
Santa Barbara High’s Erick Elizalde was honored as the male athlete of the week after a pair of standout pitching performances in wins over rivals San Marcos and Dos Pueblos. He had the Dons’ only two hits against the Royals and set up the winning run in the 1-0 victory. He also had the game-winning hit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning in the 4-3 victory over the Chargers.
Elizalde’s performance against San Marcos came in a pitcher’s duel with junior Chase Hoover, who left the game with no decision after allowing no runs over five innings with eight strikeouts.
“Chase this year has struck out 35 guys in 18 innings — he’s top-30 in strikeouts in California,” San Marcos coach Wes Ghan-Gibson said. “He has a 4.5 GPA and he’s going to attend TCU and continue to play baseball. Chase is a fierce competitor and is the leader of our team.”
He also introduced Emmett Speake, who, with an on-base percentage of .485, has been a big impetus for the Royals’ attack.
“He can play any outfield position, first base and can pitch a little, too,” Gibson said. “I’m super-thankful to have him on the team.”
Tonight’s game between Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos will be rescheduled after the Dons were put into quarantine over a positive COVID-19 test.
“We really look forward to playing them down the road,” assistant coach John Slavin said.
He could feel Santa Barbara’s pain, having had to play a game without Cole Collins because his own test hadn’t been returned in time.
“Cole has been in our program for four years and is one of our strongest players,” he said. “He’s our best post defender.”
Slavin also praised the play of senior point guard Alex Perez.
“Alex comes from a great family and is a winner on and off the court,” he said. “He executes the game plan really well and is a tireless worker. He was our leading rebounder last year as a point guard.”
Jeff Burich, speaking for Bishop Diego boys coach James Coronado, introduced the Big Three for the unbeaten Cardinals: senior Matthew Cunningham and juniors Kai Morphy and Tyler Williams.
“Matthew provides offense and is a good on-ball defender,” he said. “He’s a three-year starter who led the team in scoring last season and looks to move up the list of all-time leading scorers at Bishop Diego.
“Kai is a three-year starter who can play the big position with guard-like skills and has a knack for clutch shooting.
“And Tyler is a calming force on the court who never gets rattled. He led the team in scoring in two big wins last week and had a double-double against Moorpark.”
Burich’s own team is extremely young with 11 freshmen and sophomores among his 14 players. The other three are seniors Veronica Arreola, Sophie Benoit, and Elliot Redkey.
“So the future looks good, but it’s not going to get there without the work of these three seniors,” he said. “Veronica has been a player for us for four years and she brings it every practice.
“Sophie also plays softball and runs track. She’s just a phenomenal athlete, which makes a difference wherever she is on and off the court.
“And Elliot has been our point guard for the last three years. Her leadership has really taken on a whole other role, especially with these younger kids. She’s a great decision-maker for us on the court.”
Santa Barbara coach Andy Butcher wonders what might have been had senior Athena Saragoza gotten a full senior season.
“She’s a two-time league MVP and 12th in the state in scoring last year,” he said. “Having had a full season this year, she might have been able to beat Amber Melgoza’s all-time school scoring record.
“She’s got a 4.2 GPA and she’s going to play at the University of Denver next year. She’s just a super kid. Nobody puts more effort and time into the game.”
Another Don at the head of the class is senior Isabelle Goebel.
“She’s smarter than the coach,” Butcher said. “She’s got a 4.9 GPA and she got 10 rebounds in our first game … She’s playing great basketball.”
San Marcos coach Tiffany Sims brought her top two scorers to the luncheon: Michelle Arrelanes and Natasha Bender.
“They’re also buying into my vision with the defense,” Sims said.
The San Marcos boys team is on its way to a third Channel League championship, having won all four matches in the first round of conference play.
“Jarrod Bradley has done a good job with them,” Jahadhmy said of his longtime coach. “One of them is Jayden Duncan. Coach Bradley says he’s a force on the tennis court … He’s developed his backhand over the last year and that’s made him a better doubles player.
“And Alex Wilson has improved his overall game tremendously this past year, too, particularly his forehand and his second serves.”
Bishop Diego coach Natlee Hapeman, whose squad is led by highly ranked Luke Williams, decided last week to combine her other top singles players — Thomas Coleman and Nathan Ray — as a doubles team.
“They did amazing,” she said. “They looked like they’d been playing together forever.”
A youth movement is helping San Marcos remain a Channel League power even with just one senior — star pitcher Ally Fryklund — on the roster. The rest of the squad consists of five freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors. Freshmen Tiana Monaghan and Caitlyn Early have been especially impactful.
Monaghan won the Round Table’s Female Athlete of the Week Award after hitting two home runs and driving in five runs in a win over Santa Paula.
“She just crushed (the first) home run to centerfield — squared it up nicely — and it cleared the fence by30 feet and probably more,” coach Jeff Swann said. “Caitlyn crushes the ball, as well, but in a different way.
“She does have one home run but is also hitting .636 on the year. We’ve got her batting leadoff. She sets the tone for the rest of the team.
“Caitlyn plays short and Tiana is at third, and they just lock down the left side of the infield. Nothing gets by them.”
Bishop Diego golf coach Leo Ibarra talked football players Jarrod Ramirez and Taetum Pouoso’o into coming out for his squad.
“I told them it was something they could play their whole lives, and that they probably wouldn’t tear their ACLs doing it,” he said.
Co-captain Cameron Medina is bringing them along.
“He’s helped not only the seniors, but the little guys on the team, too,” Ibarra said.
The San Marcos girls have plenty of newcomers, as well
“We have one senior and the rest are freshmen,” Jahadhmy said while speaking for coach Sarah Ashton. “They are learning and getting better and better.
“Our boys golf program (coached by Jeff Ashton) is also a very, very young team, with one senior and the rest freshmen … but they’re loaded. They’ve got golfers who are just out of this world. I feel they could go far in the division that they’re in this year.”
It made sense that golf coach Ibarra would pull double duty and speak for Bishop volleyball coach Dillan Bennett. Basketball stars Morphy and Cunningham are also standouts for the Cardinals’ volleyball squad.
“They are our two senior captains and they play significant roles,” he said. “Morphy is the powerhouse outside hitter and Matthew plays the backcourt. These two are the perfect combination of power and finesse and will continue to help us through season.”