Bonita Bewitched: Diamond Ranch Wins a Thriller, 36-29, with Late Touchdown

October 31, 2009
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Garrett Pendleton releases a touchdown pass to Josh Yepez.

Garrett Pendleton releases a touchdown pass to Josh Yepez.

On a crisp Halloween Eve night at Glenn Davis Stadium in La Verne, both Diamond Ranch and Bonita High School unmasked spooktacular offenses, with the Panthers finally downing the Bearcats 36-29 in a thrilling contest that featured plenty of tricks, treats and highlight-reel plays. The contest wasn’t decided until versatile Diamond Ranch quarterback Gus Viramontes threw a 30-yard touchdown-scoring strike to receiver Bryan Gibson with 17 seconds left.


It was the Viramontes and Gibson show early and late in the game. The pair connected for an early 9-yard touchdown with fans still settling into their seats. After a Bonita fumble, it was Viramontes and Gibson again, connecting on a 61-yard touchdown pass to make the score 13-0.


With the Bearcats entering the game with several key players on defense and offense sidelined by injuries, including quarterback and kicker Evan Highly who had led Bonita to a game victory the week before, it looked as if Bonita were going to melt down faster than a bag of Halloween candy left in the hot sun. That wasn’t the case. Bonita was far from giving up the ghost.


In its next offensive series, the Bearcats marched 80 yards, with Garrett Pendleton throwing key completions to receivers Matt Gelalich and Los Altos hero Codey Sykes before tailback Kenneth Calvin plunged into the end zone with a 1-yard touchdown. Backup kicker Andrew Ochoa kicked the extra point to make the score Diamond Ranch 13, Bonita 7.


Early in the second quarter, the Panthers were driving for another touchdown before they stalled on the Bonita 16-yard to set up a 33-yard field goal attempt. Bonita’s Derrick McCanless, however, blocked the kick. The Bearcats used the momentum-changing block to answer with their own field goal, a successful 32-yard boot from Rocha, making the score Diamond Ranch 13, Bonita 10. After successfully fighting off the first-quarter goblins and making key adjustments to contain the scrambling Viramontes, Bonita would haunt the Panthers all night long.


In the ensuring series, Diamond Ranch used an 80-yard kickoff return to get deep in Bonita’s red zone, but on fourth and goal from the 3-yard-line Bearcat defenders Giamani Johnson and Daniel Harriman sacked Viramontes to get Bonita the ball back.


After a Pendleton interception and a Panther punt, Bonita on a drive starting on its own 18-yard-line marched to the Panther 17-yard-line, using a key screen pass to Deron Holmes and another completion to Sykes to keep the offensive series rolling. With the first half expiring, Rocha lined up for a 36-yard field goal that narrowly missed the right goal post, leaving the score 13-10 Diamond Ranch at the half.

Outstanding offensive line buys time for Pendleton to throw downfield.

Outstanding offensive line buys time for Pendleton to throw downfield.



A fired-up Bonita defense marked the start of the second half. The Bearcats twice stopped the prowling Panthers and appeared ready to take over with their best field position of the night, but a fumbled punt gave the Panthers the ball right back. Diamond Ranch capitalized for a quick-strike 58-yard run to expand its lead to 21-10.


The turnover, however, didn’t rattle the Bearcats, who drove the field for a 79-yard touchdown, capped by a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Pendleton. The key play in the drive was a 23-yard screen play to Zach Braumgard, who held on to the ball despite injuring his hip on the big gainer. After a half-hour game stoppage, Bonita completed the touchdown drive behind the hard-running of Holmes and Pendleton to make the score, Diamond Ranch, 21, Bonita, 16.


After limiting Diamond Ranch to four plays in its next offensive set, Bonita was back on the march. Mixing his plays and receiving strong efforts from Kevin Flickenger, Rocha and Holmes, a scrambling Pendleton finally found receiver Josh Yepez in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown pass, giving Bonita its first lead, 22-21.


Then the game found yet another gear. The Panthers retaliated with its quick-strike offense by going 80 yards on two plays to regain the lead, 27-22. Diamond Ranch’s two-point conversion extended the lead to 29-22, with 3:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Bonita head coach Eric Podley called a pair of key screens to keep scoring drives alive for Bonita.

Bonita head coach Eric Podley called a pair of key screens to keep scoring drives alive for Bonita.



Unfazed, Bonita came right back, responding with an 80-scoring drive of its own, highlighted by a 50 yard completion from Pendleton to Gelalich. After the extra point, Bonita knotted the score, 29-29, and with 1:20 left on the clock, it appeared the game was headed for overtime.


But Diamond Ranch, refusing to turn into a pumpkin, scared up the offense one last time, with Viramontes and Gibson connecting for their third touchdown that left the Panthers with all the candy and Bonita holding the bag.


Still, it was a remarkable game for the Bearcats, who played short-handed and had to run out a pair of untested sophomore linebackers who more than held their own, with their key defensive starters injured. Pendleton again showed his promise, completing 21 of 33 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Holmes also broke the century mark, gaining 107 yards on 25 carries, plus two touchdowns.


Bonita head coach Eric Podley was proud of his team’s performance, noting he had to patch together a defense in two days. Pendleton’s play also drew the coach’s praise. “He sat on the bench for two weeks, and then played great tonight. You’re going to see great things from him in the future.”


Despite the loss, Podley said he saw a standup performance from his players. “I’m darn proud of the way they played,” Podley said. “They played with heart and character and never quit. They never put their heads down. It might not always show up on the scoreboard, but when you play the way our kids played tonight, you’re a winner in life.”

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