No Fuelin’: Bonita Taken for a Ride in 18-15 Loss to Claremont

September 10, 2011
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Reggie Turner looks to break free from a pack of Claremont defenders.

Reggie Turner looks to break free from a pack of Claremont defenders. All photos by Carl Davis.

For Bonita on Friday night, the first offensive series went like an easy Sunday drive. Taking the ball on its own 20 under the direction of senior signal caller Aaron Burgett, the Bearcats cruised down the field in 11 plays capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Reggie Turner. After Seth Balentine’s point after, Bonita led Claremont 7-0.

The drive was so easy and well coordinated, featuring a mix of runs by Turner, Cameron Griffin and Garrett Horine and two completions to tight end Ryan Ramirez, that some in the Bonita crowd had to be wonder if they shouldn’t slip away early and stop in at Marie Callender’s on Foothill in Claremont to take advantage of the $7.99 banana cream pie special they saw advertised in the window driving to the game.

But then somehow Bonita lost control of the wheel. It was as if the team was sideswiped. It was a derailment few saw coming.

Claremont, on the strength of two Dylan Keegan field goals in the second quarter, inched back to trail, 7-6. Suddenly, Bonita’s offense was idling. Claremont was stacking the box to stuff the run game and batting down pass attempts at the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, with time winding down in the second quarter, Keegans was lining up for yet another field goal attempt at Bonita’s 14-yard-line to take the lead. The field goal attempt was largely set up by a 73-yard reception from Claremont quarterback Gabe Schaper to Andrei Tarankow in front of the Bonita sideline, which argued to no avail that Tarankow had pushed off to corral the football.

Bonita sets up for another play on offense.

Bonita sets up for another play on offense.

On the field goal attempt, Bonita’s Toure McCulley blocked the kick, which Horine alertly scooped up and ran back to Claremont’s 15-yard-line, giving the Bearcats great field position to try to tack on a touchdown right before the half and get the team back on the track.

On the first play, however, linebacker Washington Reeder stepped in front of Burgett’s pass and galloped 87 yards into the end zone to give the Wolfpack a stunning 12-7 lead at the intermission.

In the third quarter, both teams sputtered on offense. Keegans went out with a foot injury.

In the fourth period, Bonita finally put together its second touchdown drive, highlighted by Griffin’s 14-yard through the heart of the Claremont defense. Burgett found Devon Fasana in the corner of the end zone for the 2-point conversion, and Bonita was back on top 15-12 midway through the final quarter.

That’s when Claremont went to plan B, substituting sophomore quarterback Paul Manus for Schaper. Given a short field to work with, starting from Bonita’s 45-yard-linje, the elusive Manus scampered 14 yards to Bonita’s 31-yard line and then after a short run and the benefit of a face mask penalty, it was Manus again bursting into the end zone at the end of a 14-yard run to give Claremont an 18-15 lead.

Toure McCulley crashes in to block field goal attempt.

Toure McCulley crashes in to block field goal attempt.

And that’s how the game ended, Bonita sideswiped, knocked to the side of the road and unable to get out of the ditch despite having seven minutes to get the offense started again. Claremont finally ended Bonita’s agony when the Wolfpack’s Oliver Brown picked off Burgett with 2:06 to play.

Bonita came into the game short-handed. Diebold was out with a sore back and kicker Brandt Davis was fighting a thigh strain as well. Two-way starting lineman Sean Kroah was also out, but Podley wasn’t about to take cover with excuses. The team that dazzled in front of thousands on Smudge Pot didn’t show up to play in a lower-key setting in Claremont.

“They figured out that we were going to have some problems throwing so they started playing 10 guys in the box and seven yards from the line of scrimmage,” Podley said. “You got to be able to throw in those situations. It’s hard to beat 10 guys.”

Podley enjoy a few highlights during the game, including this Turner sweep.

Podley enjoy a few highlights during the game, including this Turner sweep.

Podley didn’t learn until 4:30 p.m. on Thursday that Diebold would be unable to start, but he had full confidence in Burgett to step in. “He’s practiced all year, he’s played all year, they’ve been in head-to-head competition all year, all week.”

Rather, Podley pointed the team’s subpar performance on poor play and untimely penalties. “When you’re playing a ball control offense, you can’t end up with third and 22s.”

On Friday, it was Claremont that moved into the driver’s seat, taking Bonita for a ride – a position the Bearcats didn’t much like. Bonita hopes to turn things around and get back on track in its home opener against La Serna of Whittier on Sept. 16.

For more post-game comments, go to REEL People video.

Before or after every Bonita game, head over to the Pizza Barn for great sandwich, spaghetti and other specials. See ad on La Verne Online!

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