Fans of the Bishop Union High football team can only hope the playoffs are half as exciting as the regular-season finale.
The Broncos won the High Desert League title with a thrilling 43-36 victory Thursday over the visiting Desert Scorpions at John Schwab Field.
The top two teams in the HDL hooked up in another classic before a less-than-full house in the rare Thursday game. Desert won last year’s meeting to win the league title at Edwards Air Force Base, but the Broncos avenged that loss with a come-from-behind win.
Both teams will be in the CIF-SS Toyota Football Championships in the East Valley Division. Pairings will be announced Sunday.
A high-scoring first half saw the No. 5-ranked Scorpions (7-3 overall, 2-2 in HDL), take a 29-23 lead, but the Broncos (5-4, 4-0) scored on a 39-yard touchdown run by Christopher Santana and Bishop had its first lead at 30-29 with over four minutes left in the third quarter.
But Desert’s Terrence Wells scored his third touchdown of the game on a four-yard run and the Scorpions regained the lead, 36-30.
Bishop responded with another TD, a 21-yarder by Chance Erwin, and the Broncos led 37-36 about halfway through the fourth quarter.
The Bronco defense, after being hammered in the first half, continued its solid play after halftime and forced a fourth-down play. The Scorpions fumbled, and the Broncos took over at the 20-yard line late in the game.
Bishop drove within the 5-yard line, and Bronco coach Bill Egan had quarterback Drew Blumberg stay short of the end zone on two plays, forcing Desert to use up its timeouts.
Blumberg scored on a 1-yard TD run on fourth down, putting Bishop up 43-36. The point-after attempt hit the left upright.
The Scorpions then fumbled and Bishop ran out the final 40 seconds for the heart-stopping title-clinching win.
The first half was one for the ages. Desert’s Dannen Currie started the scoring flurry with a 46-yard TD run, but Bishop’s Aaron Puls scored on a 28-yard TD run. Wells returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a TD, but Blumberg responded with 30-yard TD run and the score was 13-13.
Wells scored on a 4-yard TD run, and Desert recovered an onside kick, one of three by the Scorpions. Wells then hooked up with Stephen Ford for a 40-yard TD pass and a 26-13 lead.
Blumberg then showed why he’ll likely be the Player of the Year in the HDL by scoring on a 37-yard TD run. A 36-yard field goal by Desert’s AJ Hall and a 22-yard field goal by Santana rounded out as fun a high-school first half as fans could ask, with Desert leading 29-23.
Bishop’s defense then allowed just the one TD in the second half and the Broncos celebrated their perfect HDL campaign.
In the other HDL game, Kern Valley defeated Frazier Mountain 10-7. Kern Valley finished at 2-2 and tied with Desert for second place, but the Scorpions get the automatic berth by virtue of their victory over KV.
Both Kern Valley (5-5, 2-2) and Frazier Mountain (4-6, 1-3) have to hope for one of four at-large berths in the six-league East Valley Division, which guarantees only the top two teams in each league playoff spots.