FRANKLIN LOAN CENTER PRE-SEASON REPORT: Early Sling(s) of Misfortune Should Not Derail Bonita from Top Season

August 24, 2010
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Bonita football is all about the business of blocking and tackling.

Bonita football is all about the business of blocking and tackling.

Coach Eric Podley isn’t superstitious. When the first week of practice ended on Friday the 13th in August, no mishaps were reported outside the normal aches, strains and pains of hard-hitting football players working their way into shape.

Friday, the 20th, however, was a different story. Senior starting quarterback Garrett Pendleton, who looked so promising as a junior signal caller last season, and again this summer, suffered a serious injury to his right arm that could sideline him for six to eight weeks.

“Basically, an offensive lineman, who was blocking a guy, kind of got shoved back into the quarterback, and the quarterback fell,” said Podley. “He stuck out his arm, trying to brace himself, and that’s what broke it.”

Podley’s first concern, of course, was for his player. “He worked really hard in the off-season,” he said. “He worked with a private quarterback coach. He worked hard to become a good leader, and he was poised to have a really outstanding season – maybe being one of the best quarterbacks we’ve had here.”

Injuries – even at the level and magnitude of losing your quarterback and senior leader – are not new to the Bearcats.

“We had 27 guys miss at least one game last year, so injuries are something we have to come to expect as part of the game and plan for,” Podley said, after wrapping up Monday’s practice, leaving less than two weeks before the Bearcats season and home opener on Friday, Sept. 3, against cross-town rival San Dimas in the battle for the Smudge Pot. “Our players aren’t going off the deep end. It’s something we’ve experienced before and we know we’ve got to overcome.”

The players and coaches may not be going off the deep-end because the Bearcats roster of talent runs deep. Currently, the roster lists 25 returning seniors, 15 juniors and 11 sophomores.

Quarterback Greg Spathias

Quarterback Greg Spathias


Senior Greg Spathias is expected to take the majority of snaps behind center. K.C. Huth is expected to back up Spathias.“From the big picture point of view,” Podley said, “the transition should be pretty seamless. Like Pendleton, he brings unique skills and strengths to the position. He has been a quarterback here his whole career. He knows our system, so we’ll keep on keeping on.”

If there’s no sense of panic by Podley, it’s partly due to his entering his 11th season as the Bearcats’ head coach and because Spathias will have a great supporting cast on offense.

“We have a good corps of running backs this year,” said Podley. “We have Giomani Johnson, who did fairly well last year. We have Cameron Griffith. We’ve got a sophomore in Reggie Turner that we expect really good things from. He’s had an outstanding run with us so far. We also have Nick Berghoudian.”

If it seems like Podley won’t have enough footballs to keep everybody happy, he says that’s not necessarily so. “We rotate quite a few guys, because we have so many guys going both ways,” Podley said, adding that “there will five, six or seven guys rotating quite a bit.”

Bonita’s receiving posse could be even deeper.

“Almost all of our receivers are back from last year,” Podley said. “The Horine brothers are back, Casey and Garrett. We really feel Casey is one of the fastest kids anywhere. He ran a couple of 10.5 100 meters in the spring. We think he’s got unlimited potential. He’s got good size, 200 pounds plus, and his brother is even bigger.”

Backing them up are senior Ben Cisneros, senior Grant Wharton, junior Austin Venegas and sophomore Riley Brumgard.

The Bearcats starting slot receivers are seniors Matt Gelalich and Zach Brungard. “Matt was our leading receiver last year,” Podley noted. “Zach was having a great season before he dislocated his hip in that freak accident against Diamond Ranch last year. He had an outstanding spring and summer, and I think he is going to be real tough this year.”

Though injured, team leader Garrett Pendleton is still in the middle of plays, directing and learning the offense.

Though injured, team leader Garrett Pendleton is still in the middle of plays, directing and learning the offense.

Also in the mix is Cameron Salce. “He’s fearless,” Podley said. “He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever coached.”

At the tight end position, the Bearcats are at least four-deep, with seniors Daniel Harriman and Mason Ruiz, junior Sean Kroah and sophomore Ryan Ramirez.

Bonita boasts the skills and skill players, and it believes it has some beef to back it up.

“We have some pretty good size this year,” Podley said. Penciled in at right guard is Tarez Lemmons. At left guard, Cody McKenzie will be a load to handle. “We also have some new guys with good size and experience,” Podley added.

Sophomore Brandt Davis moves in as the new field goal kicker.

While Bonita may be missing its starting quarterback on offense, the other side of the ball boasts several defensive quarterbacks and playmakers, starting with a group of returning linebackers.

At one linebacker spot is Huth. “Having him healthy makes a big difference because he’s a playmaker,” Podley said. Casey Horine will also help fill the middle. “He got injured in maybe game four or five last year,” Podley reminded. “We didn’t have another guy catch up to him tackles until about game nine, that’s how far he was ahead in tackles. So having him healthy is also a really big deal for us.”

Senior linebacker Eric Mikity is also back. “He’s been playing stalwart defense,” Podley said.

Daniel Harriman, left, should see a lot of action on both sides of the ball.

Daniel Harriman, left, should see a lot of action on both sides of the ball.

The corners also are covered, with speedsters Gelalich and Zach Brungard roaming the green. At safety is Garrett Horine, who had a breakthrough sophomore campaign, leaving his imprint all over the field last season as the Miramonte League’s first-team safety.

Podley’s got a few other things on his plate. Most pressing is preparing his team for San Dimas on Sept. 3, and getting the Smudge Pot back to La Verne, which Bonita hasn’t owned since 2006.  Kicking off the season with such a big rivalry doesn’t bother Podley. “We’ve always played a tough pre-season,” he said. “Theirs maybe wasn’t as tough, so they got to focus on us for quite a long time before they actually played us. This year’s schedule will even that up a bit.

“I was hoping we’d go in at full strength.”

Bonita also faces a new league (Hacienda) and potentially new rivals. “The new league is going to very tough and competitive,” Podley said, squinting into the intense sunlight wearing sunglasses and a new broad-brimmed straw hat. “Walnut is a big physical team that handled us pretty well last year. We’ve played West Covina before in the playoffs. They’re a school of 3,000 (Bonita has an enrollment just over 2,000). Rowland has been on a roll the last couple of years. Combine Diamond Ranch and Diamond Bar, and it’s a tough league.”

Learning the intricacies of blocking assignments can as tough as learning the tango.

Learning the intricacies of blocking assignments can be as tough as learning the tango.

Yet Podley likes the new league that Bonita finds itself in. “It’s pretty much a neighborhood league,” he said. “Everyone’s playing with guys who come [to school] on their school buses. It’s neighborhood competition, and we like that.”

And Bonita likes it chances, despite the injury to its starting quarterback, an early rivalry game and a new league.

A better team that last year?

“I definitely think we should be,” Podley said, not sidestepping any question despite the possibility of a stray remark beccoming bulletin board fodder for upcoming opponents.

“This is a team poised for a championship and that’s our expectation,” Podley said. “Last year, we were the champions of under-achievement. This year we want to be the champs of over-achievement. Our sights are high, and we’re not going to let anything stand in the way of us reaching our goals.

Over the last couple of seasons, Podley has emphasized faster workouts both on the field and in the weight room. He believes the change in philosophy (“We may not lift the most weight, but we’ll do the most reps, resulting in less body fat.”) will help the team finish stronger and also better protect the team against injury. Also, in the weight room is a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the start of the season. Even though the season is yet to begin, the team is playing with a sense of urgency.

Podley also promises a few more tricks. “We’re going to be a team that takes chances, characteristic of a team that has a lot of confidence and hopefully a little swagger,” he said.

Fans can get a sneak peek at some of that early swagger this Friday, Aug. 27, at 6:30 p.m., when Bonita scrimmages the Damien Spartans at Damien.

The junior varsity and freshman teams will suit up on Saturday at Damien.

Pendleton’s right arm may be in a sling, but even if Bonita has to be play with one arm tied behind its back half the season, it promises a season of no excuses. 

Win or lose, the players will be well hydrated this season.


Win or lose, the players will be well hydrated this season.


Follow Bonita all season long on LaVerneOnline. Follow La Verne Real Estate all year long with Colleen Bennett, my wife. I’ll vouch for her prowess.

One Response to “FRANKLIN LOAN CENTER PRE-SEASON REPORT: Early Sling(s) of Misfortune Should Not Derail Bonita from Top Season”

  1. Don’t forget the water polo team. In some respects this is a tougher sport than football.
    I p[layed 8 yearts of football and 10 minutes of water polo and I was pooped.
    Ryan Mercado’s grandfather.

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