Last year the Bonita High School football team was a bit lucky to slip into the playoffs. The Bearcats were part of a three-way tie for third place but got in the playoffs based on a tiebreaker.
They made the most of the opportunity, advancing all the way to the CIF Central Division semifinal before falling to Los Altos, 27-13.
But if the Bearcats are to move on and make a run this year coach Adrian Medrano will have to get major contributions from a lot of newcomers.
“We graduated a lot of players and some really key players,” he said. “And our league is tough. So we’re going to have to grow up quickly.”
Bonita (8-5 last year, 2-3 in the Palomares League) will have several players coming from a junior varsity squad that was 9-1 so there is potential.
Among the few players returning is senior quarterback Tanner East (above).
Other veterans include B.J. McLaurin, a wide receiver and defensive back who was also one of the area’s top track standouts, as well as lineman Baylee Smith, wide receiver Josh Peifer, linebacker-lineman Nathan Smedley, linebacker Giovanni Luna, free safety Darien Gamell and defensive back Amir Ainsworth – all seniors.
Ainsworth saw some playing time last year on special teams and was the backup to top defender Danny Gelalich.
Angel Verdugo rushed for 1,373 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago but he is among the departed. This year Medrano says it will be more “running back by committee.”
Among those who will factor into the game plan are senior Brandon Bradshaw, the second-leading rusher behind Verdugo, as well as senior Romeo Gutierrez.
Medrano is also high on junior wide receiver Dylan Flores who can contribute in a number of areas.
“We really don’t have that star player,” Medrano said. We’re one of those teams that really relies on having a lot of guys that come in and work hard and play together.”
Bonita gets the new season underway on Aug. 28 with a home game against Montebello Schurr.
The Bearcats open league play at South Hills on Oct. 16.