Angelo Bianco didn’t have high expectations for the Desert Oasis football team coming into the season.
“I thought we were about to do terrible,” said Bianco, one of just eight returning lettermen from last year’s team.
But Bianco has never been so happy to be wrong.
The Diamondbacks are off to a 4-1 start and face their biggest test when they host top-ranked Bishop Gorman (3-2, 2-0 Southwest League) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I’m really surprised, but we stepped up,” Bianco said. “I gained a lot of respect for the team and all the young players.”
Desert Oasis graduated 30 seniors after last year’s 7-3 campaign, so there was a reason for Bianco’s pessimism. But the Diamondbacks’ younger players have responded this fall, and the team is 3-0 in the Southwest.
“So far we’ve been doing well,” Desert Oasis coach Faron Seibel said. “But we’ve got the big test this week to see where we stand with the big dogs.”
Gorman is certainly considered the biggest dog in the area, and both of the Gaels’ losses have come to teams with top-10 national rankings.
Gorman is coming off a 28-14 loss to De La Salle (Calif.), ranked No. 9 nationally by USA Today. The Gaels’ other loss was to No. 8 Hamilton (Ariz.).
Gorman led De La Salle at halftime but surrendered a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“The finish at the end is what got us,” Gaels coach Tony Sanchez said. “You can’t hang your heads losing to a team like De La Salle, but at the same time, you can’t accept that.”
Gorman is a team with the size to bully opponents. The six players who have started on Gorman’s offensive line this season average 282 pounds.
The size difference will be easy to spot. Desert Oasis doesn’t have a starting defensive lineman who weighs 200 pounds. Nose guard Bianco, who has a team-high seven sacks, stands 5 feet 7 inches and weighs 160 pounds.
“They’ve got a real shifty little nose guard that tries to cause some problems,” Sanchez said. “We’ve got to make sure we get bodies on bodies.”
Desert Oasis’ other two starting defensive linemen are Andrew Ramirez (5-5, 191) and Jovan Palmer (5-10, 195), so the Diamondbacks will have to rely on speed and quickness to beat Gorman’s behemoths.
Bianco, who might be limited by a shoulder injury, said he tries to use his opponent’s size against him.
“I just go around them so I can maneuver their weight against them instead of using my body, which is not really that big,” Bianco said.
Desert Oasis switched to the option on offense this season, hoping to take advantage of the team’s speed.
“We’re more quicker than powerful, so we’re using that to our advantage,” Bianco said.
The team has responded well to the change. The Diamondbacks have outscored opponents 193-84 and are averaging 323.8 rushing yards.
Sophomore fullback Devin Fortenberry has led the way with 480 yards and 11 rushing TDs.
“Hopefully we just get stronger and stronger by the end of the year,” Seibel said. “The option should still work against this opponent. We’ll see how we come out.”