SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The game could not have started worse for Bishop Diego but the ending was sure sweet as the Cardinals beat Simi Valley 27-20 and will make their 13th straight trip to the CIF-SS playoffs.
The win gives Bishop Diego third place in the rugged Marmonte League and an automatic berth to the postseason.
The Cardinals were sloppy to start the game as they fumbled the opening kick off giving Simi Valley a short field.
However the Pioneers went three and out and missed a short field attempt.
Bishop Diego's second possession ended with a blocked punt that the Pioneers returned inside the 5- yard line of the Cardinals.
This time Simi Valley cashed in with a touchdown run by Brice Hawkins as they led 7-0.
Bishop Diego answered back with a 5 yard touchdown pass from Tua Rojas to Dominic Herrera and it was 7-7 after one quarter.
Another Bishop mistake, this time a fumble, gave Simi Valley great field position again.
Jesse Sereno tossed a short touchdown pass to Dominic Demaio but the PAT failed and it was 13-7.
The Cardinals scored with under a minute and a half remaining in the second quarter.
Rojas dumped a screen pass to Isaiah Kitt who raced 23 yards for a touchdown and Bishop Diego took a 14-13 lead into halftime.
It was homecoming for Bishop Diego and Nathan Borgatello was named king wile Audrey Gayou is the queen.
The only score of the third quarter was by Simi Valley as they went out in front 20-14 on a 6-yard td pass by Sereno to Hawkins.
Bishop Diego would not be denied a playoff spot.
After three runs were stuffed from the Simi Valley 1-yard line, the Cardinals called a great play on fourth down as Gabe Villa went in motion and was wide open in the end zone.
His 1-yard touchdown catch tied the game at 20.
Thomas Gaggs booted the extra point putting the Cardinals up 21-20 with just over six and a half minutes to go.
Sim Valley drove inside the Bishop Diego 20-yard line but Kitt came up with back-to-back defensive gems.
He sacked Sereno and then intercepted his pass on the very next play.
With under a minute to play Oscar Mauia rumbled 63 yards for a touchdown and the Cardinals were soon celebrating another trip to the playoffs.
The Cardinals began the season with just two seniors and with star Misa Paiau missing the entire year with injury, they are down to one, lineman Tristan Fui.
But these young Cards have a bright future starting next week with a CIF-SS playoff game.
The postseason pairings are announced on Sunday.
Bishop Diego (4-6) will enter the playoffs riding a 3-game win streak.
Simi Valley is 5-5 and will need a wild-card entry to extend the season.