Advancing to the championship game of the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs appears to be a pretty simple proposition for the Bonita High School football team, according to its coach, Eric Podley.
The Bearcats (11-1) will have to play near-perfect football against La Serna (11-1) on Saturday night because the Lancers simply don’t give anything away. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Bonita.
“They’re a very solid, disciplined team and they don’t make mistakes,” Podley said of La Serna.
“They don’t commit a lot of penalties.”
La Serna has put itself on the brink of a berth in the final game because it doesn’t give much away and plays a physical brand of football that relies on the running game. The Lancers have three backs who have rushed for more than 500 yards, led by Richard Alvarez’s 1,015 yards and 25 touchdowns.
What fans might see is a complete contrast in styles on Saturday, given how Bonita likes to spread the ball around with its passing game, but Podley warned on Wednesday doubting the Lancers’ passing game could be fatal.
“I think they’re comfortable throwing the ball,” Podley said.
“They’re not afraid to put it up. Forcing them to throw isn’t going to make them uncomfortable.
“Putting them behind in the game, that might (make them uncomfortable). That makes any of us uncomfortable.”
Even Podley, though, admitted it’s unlikely La Serna has seen a passing attack like Bonita’s.
The Bearcats have thrived through the air this season, whether it was backup Greg Spathias under center or starter Garrett Pendleton, who missed the first four games of the season with an elbow injury.
Pendleton has been on fire since his return in throwing for 1,616 yards and 20 touchdowns in eight games.
“I think they haven’t seen a team that throws as much as we do,” Podley said.
“That will be an interesting matchup – our passing game versus their pass defense. They do an excellent job versus the run, but we’ll be interested in testing those back four.”
In addition to Pendleton, the Bearcats have gotten a huge contribution in the running game from Giomani Johnson. Last week, the senior ran for 99 yards and scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help the Bearcats hold off Muir.
“Johnson single-handedly took over that game,” Podley said.
“He just plays hard, and when things get tough, he plays even harder. You need a guy to step up and lead in those situations, and he’s been that guy.
“Pendleton, also. When we’ve needed big plays, he has stepped up and been able to deliver. I think our kids have confidence in those two players.”
Bonita has won five consecutive games since a loss to West Covina on Oct. 29. In that span, nobody has been closer than 24 points to Bonita at the final gun.
“Right now, we have our hands full worrying about La Serna,” Podley said.
“That’s where all our concentration is at this point. We know we’re in for one heckuva game with those guys.”