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Published: Monday 21 December, 2015

Bishop Diego Football This football season at Bishop Diego High School is one big carpe diem. Two years ago, the Cardinals had a strong sophomore class and went 11 2. Last year, they rode a school record 12 wins into the CIF Northwest Division semifinals before suffering a defeat. Now they have 23 seniors on their roster with the ultimate goal of going all the way to a CIF championship. Tom Crawford takes nothing for granted. Bishop's head coach of 14 years learned the necessity of thorough preparation during the 17 years he practiced law in Los Angeles, primarily as a defense attorney. A stint as a volunteer assistant coach at Birmingham High encouraged him to switch careers. When Bishop Diego offered him a full time job, he took it despite a substantial pay cut. Crawford serves as dean of men and teaches classes in government at the 300 student coed school. His football coaching staff includes Bishop alumni Ralph Molina (Class of '79), a Santa Barbara Police lieutenant who moonlights as the team's defensive coordinator; Steve Robles (Class of '81), a retired police officer; and Matt Capritto (Class of 2000), who teaches history and social studies at the school. The ever expanding football season made for a short summer. Bishop's varsity players reported for practice on August 5. Three weeks later, they can finally start looking forward to a game. This is the story of the Cardinals' week of practice leading up to their season opener last Friday night,Football Training Shoes-Women, against the Santa Maria Saints. Rap music booms out of a loudspeaker as the players punt, pass, and kick the ball around before the official start of practice. Coach Crawford arrives on the scene. "The Monday practice is important to get everybody on the same page," Crawford says. "We introduce the week's opponent in terms of schemes. We correct things that need fixing. Friday seems a long way off to a teenager, but we've got a lot to work on. Now, excuse me, I'm gonna yell at them." At 3:40, Crawford positions 11 players in the Santa Maria's defensive formation and outlines the blocking assignments of his offense. "[Crawford's] offensive mind is amazing," says Molina, who has two sons on this year's team. "He brought us a college type offense. At first, I thought, we've got to simplify that. But he's so intelligent and teaches the game so well." At 3:50, the Cardinals perform quickness and agility drills. Robles nudges the running backs with a homemade prod a piece of PVC pipe with a boxing glove taped at the end. The practice continues for three hours in orderly 10 or 15 minute segments, punctuated by whistles and shouts. Managers place bottles of water and Gatorade around the field, and the players are allowed to take drinks whenever they're thirsty, as long as they don't linger at it. "Let's go, let's go, let's go," Crawford shouts. "You can drink while you're running." The afternoon temperature, in the 70s, is not too taxing. There is a round of technique drills by position. Robles sends the running backs through a chute that resembles a compact car wash. Instead of big brushes, the players are buffeted by six spring loaded dummies, three on each side. Ron Heller works with the tight ends. He played that position in the NFL, earning a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers. Heller joined the Bishop family by marrying a graduate of the school and sending his daughters there. "These kids have it made," Capritto says of the caring supervision that's devoted to the team. On the other hand, it's a lot of hard work for everybody. "Football is different," Capritto says. "In basketball and baseball, you're always playing games. We've put in hundreds of practices. The kids give up a lot to be out here. in the school's weight room. at Santa Barbara City College's La Playa Stadium, the field where they play their home games under a rental agreement. It has a durable carpet of artificial turf and stadium lights for night games. The evening includes a tackling drill for 10 minutes, the Cardinals' only full contact in practice all week. "We've stepped back from it, partly because of the sensitivity to concussions," Crawford says. "If it was a problem [in last week's scrimmage] against Hueneme, we'd tackle every day this week. This is such a veteran group, we haven't needed that." It's another long day for Crawford. "I'm beat," he says. But he does not let his players know it. The Cardinals return to their school field for practice. It also serves as the baseball diamond and soccer pitch, and the grass is threadbare in patches. There is a single soccer goal, and attached to it is a banner advertising the football team's lofty ranking by Cal Hi Sports in 2012. Thomas Lash, a senior linebacker, says the attention they receive in the classroom keeps their priorities from getting out of whack. "We don't slack off in class," says Lash, who takes a history course from Capritto. "The coaches always know how you're doing." Joe Salcedo, a 6 270 pound tackle, is being recruited by Division I colleges because of his physical attributes, but he hits the books, too. "Three of our five offensive linemen have four point GPAs," he says. Joe Stevenson's grade average is 4.4. The 5 240 pound guard wants to study engineering in college and expects this will be his last football season. "Our coaches prepare us well," he says.

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"It gets tiresome, but you have to push through it. Hopefully we'll go to the championship and Nike Air Huarache leave on a good note. We're capable of doing it as long as we stay focused and play hard." "We can't get ahead of ourselves," says center Jack Braniff. "We have to treat the Santa Maria game like we haven't proved anything this year," Stevenson says. This practice is not perfect. Crawford grimaces when offense fumbles a pitchout. They don't have to hear that they messed up. A minute later, he shouts, "Why are you walking back to the huddle, gentlemen?" There is blown coverage in a seven on seven drill. "Defense, drop and give me 10 [pushups]," Molina growls. "You want to know why? Nobody's talking. Pick up the pace, or you'll do 300 after practice." Capritto chimes in, "Why aren't you running, Peter? You're jogging. You can't do that." The practice goes on for more than three hours. Let's go." The players shed their helmets and pads as they stretch their limbs. Then they gather around the coaches to hear the last word of the day. "You know it's true: This week has been shabby," Crawford says. "Clean it up. You've got to communicate and learn to do things right under pressure. It all comes down to how we handle the stuff we can control." John Samson, a lineman known as "Cowboy," says a prayer: "Dear God, thank you for this day. Help us in school and home. Bless us Friday. Amen." The temperature soars to 94 degrees, the hottest day of the year in Santa Barbara. It's also Mass day at Bishop Diego, and all the male students must wear ties. Fortunately, at the day before game football practice, the players can wear shorts instead of full gear. They linger in the shade outside the weight room before it's time to take the field. As Braniff pulls on his jersey, a red stocking falls out. "It's my sister's," he says. "It must have been in the wash." His practice gear is laundered at home every night. Others reek of soil and sweat. "It's obvious by now who hasn't washed their jerseys all week," Braniff says.

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