Are you ready for some (Bonita) football?
New Bonita head coach Adrian Medrano and the scores of fans who follow the team will have their answer in less than two short weeks, when the Bearcats match up against their cross-town rivals, the San Dimas Saints, at Citrus College on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Although Medrano is a new face in terms of taking over the reins from long-time coach Eric Podley, the quarterback for Bonita is a familiar one in junior Tanner Diebold, who split time last year with Aaron Burkett as the team’s signal caller.
“He’s absolutely our quarterback,” Medrano said, back in the coach’s air-conditioned team room on the Bonita campus. “Based on our scrimmage, he did a great job of being our field general. He’s an extra coach on the field right now. He gets our guys lined up. He’s very mature and is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was at this time last year. On top of that, he has tremendous zip on the ball.”
Medrano also likes the bevy of running backs that Diebold will be handing the ball off to, which includes A.J. Greco, Joey Hubbard, A.J. Verdugo and Thomas Loy. “Those guys are playing pretty well for us,” Medrano said.
When it’s time to go up top, Diebold again should have several top-flight receivers ready to haul in his aerials, starting with returner Victor Magallanes. “It’s his senior year, so hopefully he matures into that role,” Medrano said.
Other names to look for include Mark Salce, Junior Diaz, Riley Brungard, Danny Gelalich and Christian Ramos.
“We don’t have any guys who run 4.4 40s [yards] or bench 315 pounds, so that we means we have to be very detailed and precise,” Medrano said.
Anchoring the line and buying time for Diebold will be D.J. Theriot and Spencer Hoff, who is fully recovered from an elbow injury that sidelined him much of last year. “Those two guys are really going to have to anchor us,” Medrano added. “Hopefully, they’re going to play on both sides of the ball for us.”
Don’t expect Medrano to gamble early with his high-tempo run and shoot offense when he’s got super kicker Brandt Davis on the sidelines.
“He’s a great kicker,” Medrano said. “You know, I’m a special teams guy, so we tell Tanner and everyone else, ‘Don’t do anything stupid in the red zone.’ If we’re going to be able to take the three points, we’re going to take the three points.
“He made a 52-yarder in today’s scrimmage.”
In Bonita’s 3-3-5 defense, look for Thomas Loy to be everywhere.
“He’s become sort of our field general,” Medrano said. “[Coach Ray] Medina is constantly in his ear.”
He will get plenty of help from Shane Pitts and Hubbard, who plays a hybrid strong safety/outside linebacker position.
Looking to fill the shoes of Garrett Horine at free safety is Brendan Smith. “We’ve seen him play downhill a couple of times and make some big impact plays for us,” Medrano said.
On the corners, look for Diaz, Gelalich and Angel Verdugo to pressure the other team’s slots and wide-outs.
What keeps Medrano up most nights entering his inaugural season is the team’s depth or lack of it.
“We need a little more depth, and that just comes with reps,” he said. “At the same time, we’re going to have to be able to overcome adversity. When tough things happen, we have to make sure we don’t go into the tank. We need to learn how to fight through some pain, too.
“I want to see how disciplined we are and how we respond to adversity.”
Although the team got in plenty of reps in the summer passing league, Medrano said that type of non-tackle play is not a true harbinger of how a team plays in the fall.
“To be honest, we tell our guys our passing league isn’t going to dictate how we are going to do in the season,” he said. “You don’t block, you don’t tackle. We tell them the rewards are going to come in August, not June or July.
“Now August is here. Now it’s time for real football.”
As for getting his team focused on San Dimas in the opener, Medrano doesn’t think motivation will be a problem. “Of course, it’s a big deal for the community,” he replied. “You don’t need to get the kids fired up for this one. If anything, you need to tone them down a bit, and get them to focus on the task at hand. We need to get them to focus on our schemes and fundamentals and not worry about all the outside festivities.”
For the next two weeks, Medrano’s players will have to fight through the dog days of August and hear their coach’s favorite mantra.
“One of the things I talk about all the time is paying attention to detail and overcoming adversity. The kids make fun of me, but I repeat it constantly.
“Tough things are going to happen through the season, when you’re dealing with 16 year old kids,” Medrano added, sounding very much like a gridiron philosopher. “You never know how they are going to respond, but they are going to have to respond beyond their years if we’re going to be successful.”
The team’s identify is slowly taking shape.
“We’re going to have to be scrappy,” he said. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’ve got another two weeks.”
That two week window slams shut on Thursday, Aug. 23, when the real show begins!