BONITA SPRING FOOTBALL: Bearcats Coach in Search of Players to Fill His Ark

May 10, 2011
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Head Coach Eric Podley

Head Coach Eric Podley

Ah, the sounds of spring. The coaches were barking, the players were grunting and wind was whistling on the first day of spring football practice at Glenn Davis stadium in La Verne. With Bonita coming off a 12-2 season and a just-miss as CIF champion, there was definitely a charge in the air.

Expectations of another title run are high, but right now Podley is like a poker player hoping to hit an inside straight. No, scratch that, he needs more than a few cards to pull off another miracle on D Street.

On the plus side, Bonita featured a 10-0 freshman team, so there’s plenty of talent. Podley and his core staff, plus newcomer Kevin Lacey, just need to find it and groom it. “We think they know how to win,” Podley offered, “but we have to teach them how to do it our way.”

Urgent needs? Podley has more holes to plug than a journeyman plumber. “We graduated 26 seniors, so every place there’s a gap,” Podley said. “Obviously, losing (Quarterback Garrett) Pendleton is a big gap to fill.”

Plugging that hole won’t start for at least a week because his two quarterback prospects, Tanner Diebold and Joey Halabrin, are still playing freshman baseball.

Podley also is losing all but one offensive lineman, Nick Pichota, from last year’s squad, so whoever ends up as Bonita’s primary signal caller may want to look into an early insurance policy, against defensive ends rushing in from the blind side.

No doubt the team will be young and inexperienced. “It’s kind of that way in every position,” Podley said. “We’re setting up diaper changing stations.”

Drawing a laugh, he then paraphrased the words of a famous college coach and current ESPN analyst. “Lou Holtz once said that his team was so thin, kind of like us, that he couldn’t even be like Noah b/c he didn’t have two of anything to get on the Ark.

“We’re thin!”

The off-season was a short one for the Bearcats because of last year’s deep playoff run.

“Playing all the way into December definitely made the preseason a little shorter than normal, but given a choice, I’ll take a short off-season every year.

As for making any guarantees about a return trip to the finals, Podley was holding his cards close to his vest, just like a good poker player.

“Ask me after a couple of practices,” he said diplomatically. “It’s way too early to tell right now. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

In a few months, the Ark will be leaving. He’s just not sure yet who or what will be along for the season-long ride.

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