Will Lester/Staff Photographer
Claremont receiver Andrei Tarankow pushes off Bonita’s Garrett Horine (23) during the second quarter of Claremont’s 18-15 win.
When a backup quarterback scores a team’s first offensive touchdown in the fourth quarter, it’s usually a sign that the outcome has long since been decided.
With Bonita, the No. 2 team in the CIF-SS Southeast Division, taking on a Claremont team that graduated 18 starters from last year’s team, it looked as if plenty had decided the winner before Friday night’s game began. But thanks to a gritty effort by its defense and some late field position, it was Claremont that emerged with an 18-15 victory over Bonita.
The Wolfpack (2-0) gained just 191 yards, 73 of which came on a reception that preceded a blocked field goal.
Dylan Kegans connected on two field goals and Claremont’s two touchdowns consisted of an 87-yard interception return by Stan Reeder late in the first half and a 13-yard scamper by shifty backup quarterback Paul Manus for the go-ahead touchdown with 7:02 to play.
“I’m just happy for these guys because everybody told them they wouldn’t win a game this year because we graduated all those seniors,” Claremont coach Mike Collins said.
Bonita took a 15-12 lead when Cameron Griffin, who had 56 yards on 14 carries, found the end zone with a 14-yard run on the third play of the fourth quarter.
After the Claremont offense followed with its third three-and-out — quarterback Gabe Schaper was 7 of 13 for 151 yards with an interception — things weren’t looking up for the Wolfpack. A 14-yard Bonita punt into the wind, however, set up Claremont’s game-winning 45-yard drive that began with a 14-yard run by Manus, who entered for the first time late in the third quarter and finished his second series of the game with a 13-yard touchdown run that held up thanks to Bonita backup quarterback Aaron Burgett’s second interception of the night with 2:06 to play.
The first interception by Bonita’s senior quarterback, however, was the most costly. The first play after Bonita returned a blocked field goal 59 yards to the Claremont 8-yard line, Reeder stepped in front of Burgett’s pass in the flat and returned it 87 yards to give the Wolfpack a 12-7 lead with 1:18 left in the first half.
“It wasn’t the only mistake we made,” Bonita coach Eric Podley said. “But that one cost us. We had plenty of chances to make things happen but our passing game isn’t where it needs to be.”