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Can Bonita Repeat Last Season’s Success?

August 25, 2011
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Bonita hoisted the Smudge Pot after smashing San Dimas 41-20 in 2010.

Bonita hoisted the Smudge Pot after smashing San Dimas 41-20 in 2010.

Can Bonita, a 41-20 Smudge Pot victor over San Dimas last year, defeat San Dimas again on opening night, Thursday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. at Citrus College?

Can the team run the table as it almost did last year in compiling a 12-2 season record — coach Eric Podley’s best in his 13 years at Bonita — before losing a heartbreaker to West Covina in the finals before 10,000 fans?

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

So many questions, so many holes to fill.

With the exception of returning center Nick Pichotta, the entire offensive line is gone. The entire defensive line is gone. All the linebackers are gone. The quarterbacks are gone.

Looking at those kinds of holes, you would think Podley would never leave his office. He could just wear his athletic director’s hat and let somebody else handle the headache of what can only be termed a massive rebuilding project. Take a sabbatical coach. In the end, not even 300 Spartans were able to with stand the Persian hordes at Thermopylae.

“We had a lot of holes to fill,” Podley said from his office bunker on Tuesday morning.  “We had 26 seniors graduate, so we needed a lot of guys to step up and make their presence known.”

The hole-filling started over the summer, including passing league tournaments hosted by Arroyo and Ayala High Schools in addition to Bonita’s own tournament.

“I think we now have most people in the right spots,” Podley said. “With some of the sophomores, there’s still some movement, but I think we’re finally settling in on where all these guys should play. Now it’s a matter of getting them comfortable in those spots and getting them to perform at a high level.”

Call Podley a riverboat gambler with amnesia, but he thinks this 2011 team could be one of his most talented. “I think we can contend for a league title,” he said.

Taking the reins at quarterback will be 6-foot-1 sophomore Tanner Diebold, who will be backed up senior Aaron Burgett, who piloted the JV offense last season. Meanwhile, talented sophomore Joey Halabrin is penciled in as starting quarterback for the JVs.

Early on, Podley won’t expect too much from Diebold. Fortunately, Diebold has that luxury of handing the ball off to a bevy of backs headlined by returners Cameron Griffin, a senior, and Reggie Turner, a junior. Also in the mix are senior Seth Ballentine and sophomore A.J. Greco.

“I feel we have the talent there, we just have to get the mental attitudes in the right spot,” Podley said. “With a young quarterback, we’re going to have to rely on our running game more than we have in the past.”

The running backs will be following the blocks of an offensive line anchored by returning center Nick Pichotta. But after that, you better pull out your program for names and numbers.

“After that, everybody else is going to be new,” Podley admitted.

New as in tackles D.J. Theard, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior, and Jacob Broussard, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior. New as in senior 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior guard Sean Kroah and 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior Spencer Hoff

“It’s going to be a pretty good offensive line, and we’ve got some guys who can run a little bit,” Podley added.

When Podley decides to go upstairs, Diebold will have some tempting targets to aim at. Wide receiver Garrett Horine returns for his senior campaign bigger and swifter than ever at 6-3, 205. “He’s going to be an outstanding receiver as he was last year,” Podley said.

Senior Austin Venegas, who saw a lot of playing time last season, will also be a primary target, as will be Riley Brungard, just a junior. Senior Devon Fasana will see plenty of action in the slot.

Podley also likes his new 6-foot-4 tight end, Ryan Ramirez, a junior.

“He’s a kid who we think is going to be really outstanding for us,” Podley said. “He’s an awfully big target. He and Horine on the field together give our quarterback a little more margin for error.”

As for the kicking game, Brandt Davis was almost perfect last season, and no one came up bigger than in the championship game against West Covina when he punched through what looked like the winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.

“We expect an even better year for him,” Podley said.

On defense, Podley will rely on linebacker Pichotta to help engineer the formations. “He’s a pretty smart kid, a 4.0 guy who wants to be engineer. He’s going to make sure our guys line up correctly,” Podley noted. Flanking Pichotta will be linebackers Griffin, Turner and sophomore Thomas Loy.

The defense will also benefit from the return of Jason Wells, not as a player, but as a coach. The former Bonita and University of Washington defensive star will be sharing his Division 1 coaching knowledge with the cornerbacks and safeties.

“He’s really helping us,” Podley said. “He’s still got that attitude, like he’s suiting up. When he sees a receiver break loose, he lights up. He’s going to add a real psychological boost.”

Eric Podley

Eric Podley

And perhaps, that’s the biggest hole of all to fill – the psychological one. Last year’s 12-2 team got it done. “They approached the season with a determination I hadn’t seen since I have been at Bonita,” Podley said. “You could tell they loved playing and that they loved playing together.

“The greatest satisfaction was seeing how much better they played the second time they faced West Covina than the first time they played them. To me that said a lot about those kids. A lot of kids would not have fought back, having lost so big the first time.”

Bonita won’t be short on talent, nor will it be short on leadership – that 12th man.

“Horine is definitely a leader,” Podley said. “He’s been nursing an ankle injury all fall and all summer, but when he’s on, he looks very impressive. In the Ayala tournament, he was like a human vacuum, sucking up everything in sight.

“Pichotta and Cameron are also really stepping up for us. Sean Kroah is another leader. “You can really tell the difference when he’s in the game and when he’s not the game. I think those seniors right now are really taking charge.”

Podley believes he has the ingredients for a championship run. He’ll toss those ingredients into the Smudge Pot at Citrus College on Sept. 1. and start to stir on the sidelines. Even though it’s just the opener, it has season-long and even career ramifications.

Does anyone see a resemblance between Vince Lombardi and Coach Podley. Could Podley be riding on the shoulders of his players at league's end?

Does anyone see a resemblance between former high school coach Vince Lombardi and Coach Podley. Could Podley be riding on the shoulders of his players at league's end?

“Winning the smudge pot game definitely makes your life easier,” Podley said. “It’s a contract renewal game. If you win that game, you’re probably going to be rehired the next year. You might be one and nine on the season, but if that one win is against San Dimas, you’re probably coming back.”

“It’s a big venue to do it,” Podley said. “It’s a big crowd to do it in. Our young guys are going to get thrust into the lion’s den early. Now it’s time to see what they can do.”

 

 

Pos

Yr

Ht

Wt

 

1

Thomas Loy

RB, LB

So.

5-10

185

2

Cameron Griffin

RB, LB

Sr.

5-10

205

3

Aaron Burgett

QB

Sr.

5-7

170

5

Reggie Turner

RB, LB

Jr.

5-9

185

6

Joe Hubbard

RB, SS

Jr.

5-7

170

7

Jacob Karim

WR, SS

So.

5-9

170

8

Jett Ramirez

QB

Jr.

5-6

160

9

Devon Fasana

WR

Sr.

5-7

160

10

Tanner Diebold

QB

So.

6-1

170

12

Joey Halabrin

QB

So.

6-1

180

13

Dimas Diaz

WR, DB

So.

5-11

175

14

Austin Venegas

WR, DB

Sr.

5-9

160

15

Brandt Davis

K, WR, DB

Jr.

6-0

170

21

Dane Hollar

TE, LB

So.

6-1

180

22

Brendan Smith

WR, DB

So.

5-8

160

23

Garrett Horine

WR, DB

Sr.

6-3

210

24

Chris Baskerville

WR, DB

Sr.

5-7

165

25

Mark Salce

WR, DB

Jr.

5-6

155

26

Seth Balentine

FB, LB

Sr.

5-9

200

26

Seth Ballentine

RB, SS

Sr.

5-9

210

27

Victor Magallanes

WR, SS

Jr.

5-10

170

28

Riley Brungard

WR, SS

Jr.

5-10

170

29

Toure McCulley

WR, DB

Sr.

5-11

175

30

Joe Cross

RB

Sr.

5-7

170

31

Danny Esparza

, DL

Sr.

5-9

180

33

Theodore Hyde

WR, DB

Sr.

5-6

155

34

Morgan Ruiz

WR, DB

Jr.

6-1

165

35

Dallas Ryback

, LB

Sr.

5-6

175

40

Dennis Parker

, SS

Sr.

6-0

160

42

Jacob Wintersole

RB, DL

Sr.

5-9

185

43

Jason Sanez

RB, LB

Sr.

5-9

185

45

Brandon Algorri

DL, LS

Sr.

6-1

210

50

Ryan Contri

OL, DL

Jr.

5-10

190

51

Joe Tollar

OL, DL

So.

5-9

215

52

Rick Camarillo

OL, DL

Jr.

5-6

180

53

Nick Pichotta

OL, LB

Sr.

6-0

210

58

Spencer Hoff

OL, DL

Jr.

6-2

215

60

Victor Rojas

, LB

Jr.

5-6

160

61

D.J. Theard

OL, DL

Jr.

6-4

240

62

Alec Broussard

OL, DL

Sr.

6-4

240

62

Jacob Broussard

OL, DL

Sr.

6-3

250

63

Adam Ung

OL, DL

Jr.

5-9

185

64

Eric Asencio

OL, DL

Sr.

5-10

230

66

Gabe Quintero

OL, DL

Sr.

5-6

205

67

Jesse Garibay

OL, DL

Jr.

6-0

190

68

Sean Kroah

OL, DL

Sr.

6-2

205

72

Brandon Murphy

WR, SS

Sr.

6-2

150

75

Frank Gamez

OL, DL

Jr.

5-11

225

77

Byron Ward

OL, DL

Sr.

6-1

250

79

Vince Bellomo

OL, DL

Sr.

6-0

190

81

Ryan Ramirez

TE, DL

Jr.

6-4

200

82

Tyler Coupland

TE

Sr.

6-1

175

83

Joshua Resendez

TE, DL

Jr.

6-2

210

88

Ronald Theard

WR, DB

So.

6-1

175

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