This season the Bishop Broncos football team cruised to an 8-2 regular season record and entered the playoffs as the #1 overall seed in the division 6 central playoffs. After beating 16-seed Boron 13-0 and 8-seed Foothill 34-14, Bishop was scheduled to play 5-seed Lindsay High Cardinals in the semifinals.
Getting to the semifinals was an accomplishment by itself. The Broncos program has experienced success but only had two section titles to show for it. One was in 1957 and the next was in 2010 under Head Coach Bill Egan who coached the Broncos before Arine Palu and his brand new coach staff took over the team.
Palu told the Sheet that the Broncos were down 16-7 to Lindsay High but the fight wasn’t over, “I gave the boys a few words at halftime but then our defensive coordinator Rick Beall got up and said something like ‘every season has a life and at this point we are on life support.’” The speech was longer and more thought out but the point of the story is that it worked. The Broncos shut out the Cardinals in the second half securing a spot in the finals with a 22-16 victory.
Bishop then demolished Orosi in the finals by a score of 34-7. Palu and his team won Bishop’s third CIF section title. “We then had a chance to play in the state finals and we weren’t going to pass up on that,” said Palu.
The Broncos lost in the finals to Salesian College Preparatory 37-18, but this didn’t affect how Palu feels about the team, “Winning the CIF (section title) was always our goal and we accomplished that,” said Palu.
It was the culmination of a four-year climb.
Palu took the reins of the program four years ago with offensive coordinator James Ferrell and defensive coordinator Rick Beall helping lead the program, “That first year we only had five coaches for the whole program, varsity and junior varsity,” Palu said.
While discussing that first year as the Broncos head coach Palu reminisced, “I’m looking at a picture of our team from 2016 and we only had 16 kids on that team. You can’t even run a full football practice with 16 kids.”
But Palu was trying to establish a foundation for his new program, “I felt there was a big need for the kids to care more. We wanted a unified program. Every year we have a theme for our team and that year’s theme was ‘team first’,” said Palu.
Palu, Ferrell and Beall didn’t uproot the system. They kept most of the X’s and O’s that the preceding coach, Bill Egan, had established. “We kept the same offense but changed some of the features. We still had a spread attack but upped the tempo and changed the cadence. On the defensive side we switched from a 3-3-5 (3 lineman and 3 linebackers which lends itself to linebackers blitzing) to a 4-2,” said Palu.
With a similar style of football ,the only change was the culture, and that took time. “We struggled a lot out of the gate. We demanded mandatory weight rooms and some guys couldn’t handle it. But toward the end of the season, we came together and we won a playoff game. That was huge for our team.”
“The first thing I asked (from the team) was to start caring for each other. The next year we took a step back, we rested on some of the team building stuff. In ‘18 we got back to our foundation, and we had a great group of seniors but we came up short in the playoffs,” said Palu.
2019 was different. A season preview posted in The Sheet on August 23, 2019, reads, “Last season the team went 7-3 in the regular season. They made the playoffs and lost in the first round, ending the season 7-4. That was in division five. Bishop Union got moved down to division six this year, but that just means the bar rises. “We feel like we have a chance to win the state championship, and that is what we are aiming for.” Said Palu.”
Palu called his shot.
Now that Palu, Ferrell, and Beall have established their program with the third CIF title in school history, The Sheet asked what was next for Broncos football and Palu responded, “We have momentum and we have buy-in. Next year we have the potential to be even better. It’s lining up that we will have a bunch of great classes coming up. We are stoked.”
And now, a few words from three senior leaders: Jayden Braithwaite, Tristan Valle and Luke McClean.
Sheet: What do you remember most from your freshman season?
Jaydan Braithwaite: I remember getting moved up to varsity and starting by the end of freshman season.
Tristan Valle: In a back and forth battle with California City, I remember Luke asking us if we were the hammer or the nail? We then went all the way down the field and punched in a touchdown to win the game.
Luke McClean: The thing I remember most about freshman year were the bus trips. The memories we made were some of the times of my life. We would sit for hours talking to each other just enjoying being able to play the game of football with lifelong friends.
Sheet: How has the program changed in the four years you’ve been there?
Braithwaite: Training starts earlier and we get to the weight room earlier. It is also more organized.
Valle: Over the four years there have been many players coming in and helping our team tremendously. We worked hard to become the best.
McClean: There have been a lot of changes. My freshman year was the first year of a new conglomerate of football coaches. The changes have been different every year, and this year specifically, it felt like our identity had finally “clicked”, and our game flowed seamlessly.
Sheet: What has the Bishop football coaching staff taught you?
Braithwaite: The coaching staff taught me how to be a man on and off the field.
Valle: Football turns us from boys into men. It’s not always about winning, it’s about how you win. And Coach Palu has taught us ‘boys do what they want to do and men do what they have to do.’
McClean: The Bishop Union High School coaching staff include some of the most important men I have in my life. The bond and love I share with every one of them is truly special to me, the relationships I’ve built with them will last an eternity, and the lessons they taught me about being a man and taking responsibility have been engraved into me.
Sheet: When you think of high school football, what do you think of?
Braithwaite: I think of the CIF championship we won this year.
Valle: I think of the brotherhood we have and the families it brings together.
McClean: When I think of high school football I think about the people. The people make up a team, the people of the town coached, taught, and raised every single one of the athletes. High School sports gave us an opportunity to give back.
Sheet: What did winning the section finals mean to you?
Braithwaite: It meant the world to me. Ever since the team won in 2010, I have wanted to be in this position.
Valle: Winning the finals with my brothers showed me that all the hard work wasn’t for nothing.
McClean: Winning the CIF Championship was easily the greatest accomplishment I have achieved in my life. It felt as if everything from my childhood led to that moment, the pressure was immense, but the joy of winning, for Bishop, was a feeling that will rarely be repeated in my life.
Sheet: What would you say to the residents of Bishop?
Braithwaite: Thank you for supporting us and keeping a positive vibe throughout the year.
Valle: The residents constant support to our program made us who we are. All the team dinners, parades, and support at the games makes us want to play and make Bishop proud.
McClean: I would like to thank every single person from this Bishop community. Bishop has been the greatest hometown I could ever ask for. The chance to represent Bishop, and this amazing place we call home is a dream come true. All I can do is appreciate how special a place Bishop truly is.
Sheet: What is next for you?
Braithwaite: I would like to attend University of Nevada, Reno and possibly walk on to the football team.
Valle: I am either going to go into the navy or try and play college ball. I haven’t decided yet.
McClean: The next step for me after is clouded with mystery, however, I do plan on attending a university. As for athletics I have been contacting coaches throughout the country and might play college ball. Sports is not my main concern and I wish to major in either Finance or Law.