With Halloween beckoning, Senior Night turned into Fright Night for Bonita when Diamond Ranch’s Mario Giron booted a 37-yard-field goal as the game clock expired giving the Panthers a dramatic 34-31 win over the Bearcats on Friday night at Glenn Davis Stadium.
The Panthers had blocked a Bonita punt to set up the winning score.
With 1:13 left to play, Giron had tied the game at 31-31 with a 32-yarder.
The back-to-back field goals sent Bonita fans reeling on a night they were expecting to see the Bearcats secure the Hacienda League championship.
“We can’t make costly mistakes as we did at the end,” coach Adrian Medrano said.
Indeed, it appeared that Bonita was well on the way to its sixth straight victory when the game slipped through its fingers at the end.
Bonita had bounced out to an early 17-7 lead despite missing the first-quarter services of star running back Reggie Turner.
On its first possession of the game, Bonita mounted a nine-play, 43-yard scoring drive, capped by a 9-yard pass from Tanner Diebold to Joey Hubbard. The Brandt Davis extra point made it 7-0 with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers answered with a two-play 80-yard drive of its own, 75 of those yards coming from tailback Allen Salguero, who would finish the night with 193 yards on 21 carries.
In the next offensive series, Bonita showcased its depth and versatility with Angel Verdugo and Mark Salce picking up hard yards before Diebold found Richie Cochrane for a 19-yard scoring strike to make the score 14-7 after the Davis extra point.
Bonita added three more points in the quarter, courtesy of a Davis 43-yard field goal. When Bonita went up 17-7 with 2:19 left in the first period, the scoring outburst prompted one sideline journalist to say, “I thought the Panthers had more defense.” It was a fair observation; Bonita was making the game look easy with its high-octane offense firing on all cylinders. Bonita’s first three possessions all put points on the board.
Although it was early in the second quarter, Diamond Bar showed a sense of panic (or urgency), electing to go for a first down on fourth-and-one despite the ball being on the Panthers’ own 22-yard-line. Bonita stuffed the run and was back in business working with a short field. But Bonita failed to get in, settling instead for a 40-yard field goal by Davis to put Bonita up 20-7.
Meanwhile, things appeared to go from bad to worse for Diamond Ranch. Two procedure penalties backed up the Panthers on their own 10-yard-line. But just when Bonita fans were ready to write Diamond Ranch’s obituary, Panthers quarterback Xavier Beltran hooked up with Donvan Smith for an 88-yard pass completion down to Bonita’s 2-yard line. With 8:11 left in the second quarter, Salguero scored on a 1-yard plunge. Suddenly, the score was Bonita 20, Diamond Ranch, 14. The fans had a ball game,not a blow-out, to watch!
Bonita had another promising series go awry when Diebold was picked off late in the second. Diamond Ranch capitalized when Beltran, with 1:33 left in the half, connected with Salguera for a 3-yard scoring pass. After the extra point, Diamond Ranch took its first lead of the game, 21-20.
Bonita responded by marching down the field, but a Davis 33-yard field goal attempt narrowly missed to the left before the end of the half.
Both teams failed to score in the third quarter. Diamond Ranch missed a 55-field goal attempt and had a touchdown called back on two penalties. Bonita fumbled at midfield.
The fourth quarter was a different story, however. Both offenses got back on track, with Diamond Ranch striking first, when Salguera found the end at the end of a 17-yard run, putting up the Panthers 28-20.
Bonita closed the margin to 28-23 with 7:47 after Davis split the uprights with a 24-yard field goal. The score was set up with a clutch pass from Diebold to Christian Ramos. The Bearcats faced a first and goal from the 7-yard-line, but the offense bogged down, forcing Medrano to take the three points with 7:47 left.
Trailing, Bonita needed a break and it got one when Salguera fumbled. Two plays later, Reggie Turner reeled off a 30-yard touchdown run and Bonita led 29-28. Diebold found Cochran for the two-point conversion, giving Bonita a three-point cushion, 31-28.
But from that point on, Bonita sputtered while Diamond Ranch relied on the right foot of Giron, whose two field goals in the last 1:13 seconds gave Diamond Ranch the stunning victory. A wild celebration broke out on the southern sidelines, stealing Bonita’s thunder on Senior Night.
“Absolutely, it slipped through our fingers,” Medrano said. “In the first half, we gave up a couple of big plays. I thought we played really good defense in the first half. We just had a couple of slip-ups. And a couple of times, they came out in some unbalanced formations, and we didn’t recognize and line up quick enough.
“Offensively, we’ve got to be able to punch the ball in when we need to punch it in, and we had three turnovers, plus a blocked kick down at the end.
“Our punt adventures continue.”
And so does the season, with Bonita still on top. The question is was the disappoint loss for Bonita just a bend in the road or the end of the road.
The players and staff will have their answer next week.
Seniors and Parents. To continue achieving great success, read Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject (www.HarvardReject.com). It will help you surmount new challenges and achieve future goals, and, most important, dream big! Available in book and e-book versions.
ONWARD AND UPWARD TO THE PLAYOFFS
MORE PHOTOS, JUST IN FROM THE INCOMPARABLE ERIC DAVIS:
ALL ACTION SHOTS BY ERIC DAVIS.