Bishop Ford had its five-game winning streak snapped on Sunday when it lost 22-12 to Mount St. Michael at Aviator. However, that loss is but a blip for the Falcons, as they have clinched the CHSFL AA playoffs for the first time in the program’s 15-year history.
“I think it’s great,” Bishop Ford coach Jim Esposito said. “The kids are down a little right now, but I told them that from here on every game is a playoff game. If they compete like that we’ll be fine. We just have to work on a few things and get a few things straightened out. It’s a huge thing to get to the AA playoffs. That’s been our goal for the last few years. We won the A championship, we had to move up and to play a AAA team like this down to the wire its definitely good for us.”
The Falcons have had a relatively easy schedule so far this year, but Sunday’s game was a real test. Mount is a AAA team and even playing at that level was unheard of a few years ago. Not only did Bishop Ford stay right in there with them all game, but at times they looked like the better team.
Ford started the game off strong as its defense held Mount on their first drive and the offense scored on their first chance, when quarterback James Esposito found Malik Warner open for a 32-yard touchdown pass. Ford then held off Mount again, this time forcing a turnover on downs at their own 18-yard line. All cylinders were firing as running back Jevon Smith broke loose for an 81-yard touchdown run as Bishop Ford grabbed a 12-0 lead still in the first quarter.
That’s when things took a turn for Ford as Mount continuously ran the triple-option. The Falcons, who only have 27 players, many who play both ways, they quickly became exhausted chasing after their running backs.
“As they game went on they kept pounding us,”Esposito said. “That offense is four yards at a time and it’s frustrating because you’re stopping them, you’re stopping them, but they’re still getting first downs moving the ball down field four yards at a time. It wears you out.”
Mount finally got on the board 12-6 in the second quarter when Aaron Brown recovered a fumble in the end zone that was dropped by teammate Kasim Thomas at the one-yard line. Mount then took the lead late in the first half when Tyrrell Halliman grabbed a 31-yard pass and converted the two to make it 14-12.
Mount only scored once in the second half, when Anthony Lyston ran in a seven-yarder to make it 22-12. That’s all they would need though as their running game allowed time to tick off the clock and also kept the ball away from Bishop Ford’s offense.
The loss was tough, but Bishop Ford officially clinched a AA playoff spot the day before when St. John the Baptist lost, so the game wasn’t a must win. Coach Esposito and his son James both thought that a lot could be gained from the loss.
“I don’t look at this loss as negative,”James said. “Not that I’m not upset by this loss, I’m very upset, but it’s not a very big deal and now we have a week of practice to fix our mistakes. This was a playoff caliber game for us and really good experience. It’s up to us now to take what we saw today and build off of it.”
Coach Esposito also loved what he saw in the team’s defense, “I love the way our defense played the triple option,” he said. “I thought we got tired later on and missed a couple of tackles, but we were in the right positions. Against a team like that, who has a lot of experience, for the first time playing them I thought we did a great job defensively.”
Bishop Ford will have another big test next week as it faces St. Francis Prep, who is currently ranked No. 3 in AAA. Even if the Falcons don’t come away with a victory in that game it will undoubtedly help them as they prepare themselves for the AA playoffs for the first time in the school’s history.
James Esposito finished with 104 yards passing with a touchdown, Jevon Smith had 87 yards rushing and a touchdown and Rodney Gonzales had 66 yards receiving.