San Dimas won’t let its season be smudged

Imagine beginning the season with a playoff game. Imagine losing that game. Season’s over, right?

That’s probably what it felt like for the San Dimas High School football team after losing to Bonita Sept. 1 in the annual Smudge Pot game, arguably the most meaningful on the schedule prior to December. Scheduled for Week 0 this year, the rivalry game not only went in favor of Bonita, the Bearcats gave a rude awakening to a San Dimas team with championship aspirations, 40-20.

“With the emotion involved in that type of game, a lot of guys could have thrown in the towel,” San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow said. “But there was no complaining, no moping. They just said, `Let’s clean this up.”‘

San Dimas has cleaned up, most recently a 59-6 shellacking of San Gabriel on Friday that included 584 yards of offense. The week following the loss to Bonita, San Dimas hammered three-time defending Montview League champion Azusa, 41-16.

Senior quarterback Sean Kennedy is 8 for 9 passing with 254 yards and four touchdowns combined the past two weeks, though the Saints called a halt to the passing game seven plays into Friday’s game. San Dimas’ bread and butter, the running game out of the Wing-T offense, has produced 811 combined yards in the Saints’ two victories.

To be fair, Azusa and San Gabriel are a combined 1-4 on the season. In fact, Bonita has lost two consecutive games since opening its season with a bang.

Any remaining questions about SanDimas can be directed toward this weekend in the Saints’ fifth meeting with Monrovia in the past three seasons. The defending CIF-SS Mid-Valley champions – San Dimas defeated Monrovia to win the 2009 CIF title but the Wildcats bested the Saints in the semifinals last year – are in a class of their own, according to Zernickow.

“They’re the best team in our division by leaps and bounds. It’s not even close,” Zernickow said. “So this will tell us a lot about where we are and a lot about where we can go.”

San Dimas has come a long way in two weeks, but there is plenty of room for improvement as some young players get more comfortable in their roles.

Cody McNeal, who missed the season opener with a knee injury, has returned with such a vengeance Zernickow is moving linebackers to the defensive line in order to free playing time for the 6-foot-1 junior.

Sophomore Noah Reep has started the past two games at tight end and only continues to fill out his 6-foot-4 frame. Senior DeVante Brown, perhaps San Dimas’ most explosive athlete, is coming into his own as a featured running back in addition to making a regular impact in the secondary.

“We’ve got some guys starting to fill in some key roles,” Zernickow said. “We’re starting to clean up some of the mistakes we made in the first game.”