Editor’s note: Yes, you can learn a lot from sitting in your car eating King Taco. And to the investigative genius who claimed I only watched San Dimas for one series against El Monte in the SGV Shootout, since you’re so good at tracking people, can you tell me whether Coach Zernickow and Coach Mustain went to the locker room at halftime on Thursday night or did they stay up in the booth? I was on the field with Time Warner’s Reg Miller, who was waiting to get some footage of Coach Z as the teams came out to the field after halftime. But we never saw him. Did we simply miss him or did he not go to the locker room at halftime?
Was Bonita that good, or is San Dimas that bad?
That’s the question area fans will be asking for the next few days after Bonita’s 40-20 win on Thursday night at Citrus College in the Smudgepot Game. And the answer is quite simply some of both.
It’s hard to explain away what the Saints did on Thursday night. San Dimas’ coaching decisions were a second-guesser’s paradise, from an ill-conceived failed two-point conversion after the team had taken a 6-3 lead in the second quarter to rarely being able to curtail a Bonita offense that was very limited and seemingly ran the same few plays all night while shielding it’s sophomore quarterback Tanner Dieblold from dangerous situations.
I’m no coach, but I’ve always felt teams shouldn’t go for two unless they have to. San Dimas did not have to when it staked its only lead of the game early in the second quarter on DeVonte Brown’s 88-yard touchdown run. But as a spectator on the field who tried to defend Saints head coach Bill Zernickow’s decision put it to me, “It’s the Smudgepot.” Common sense be damned.
For me, that play was the turning point. San Dimas quarterback Shawn Kennedy was stuffed by three Bonita defenders before he reached the goal line and the ill-fated attempt to razz the Bearcats totally backfired. From that point, Bonita went on a 30-0 run that had half the fans at Citrus College heading for the exits early in the fourth quarter.
Prior to Thursday, the last time anybody saw Bonita in game action, the Bearcats were on the losing end of a heart-breaking loss to West Covina in the Southeast Division championship. Missing from this year’s team was last year’s dynamic senior class. Bonita was definitely vulnerable fresh out of the box on Thursday night, but only for a little while.
The Bearcats played it conservative. They relied on their defense, which is going to be a force this year. They didn’t put Diebold in dangerous situations. They kicked field goals when they should have instead of going for it on 4th-and-goal, like the Saints did early in the game … getting stuffed and missing a chance to put Bonita on its heels even if it was just a 3-0 lead.
Eventually, Bonita was a lock to figure out what San Dimas trying to do on offense. Smart coaches know how to a stop Wing-T, or a Wing-Z, but it’s up to their players to figure it out on the field. Once Bonita did that on Thursday night, it was like cracking the code to a safe. Whatever is inside is yours and you can walk right out the door.
Bonita walked right out the door with a huge run that turned a 6-3 deficit into 33-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. There was even some talk of a running clock, not that half the fans would have noticed anyway because they were already in their cars.moments after Bearcats receiver Garrett Horine made it a 27-point game on a 10-yard touchdown.
For the past week, opinions varied leading up to the Smudgepot renewal. Some felt that San Dimas was fielding an offense capable of matching what the past two Saints teams did. Others, myself included, felt that the Saints weren’t near that level of skill talent. You needed only the first three quarters of Thursday’s game to find out who was right and who was wrong. And San Dimas’ DeVonte Brown did everything he could to plead his team’s case.
Had Brown not busted that 88-yard run and had San Dimas not put up a couple late cosmetic scores, the conclusions would be more bleak.
As you might expect, both teams have a lot of improving to do. Bonita won’t enjoy nearly the same success in the Hacienda League or Southeast Division if it can’t be more threatening on offense. San Dimas won’t challenge Covina for the Valle Vista League title and bid for another big postseason if the Saints don’t find somebody beside Brown on offense to put up big plays. But you can also pin plenty of blame for Thursday’s fiasco on a coaching staff that’s too good to have its team look like a deer in headlights right after halftime.
San Dimas only trailed 10-6 at half, but a 90-yard kickoff return by Bonita’s Tourre McCulley to start the third quarter kept the snowball rolling and Bonita was in the end zone seconds later. Then came an interception on San Dimas’ next possession that eventually led to a 23-yard touchdown from Diebold to Horine. The Saints then fumbled on the first play of their next possession and Bonita cashed it in with a Brandt Davis field goal. You get the point.
Fortunately for San Dimas, a long season lays ahead, but it’s time to start being honest about the talent level on hand and realizing that the swagger from 2009′s CIF championship is long gone and a new one needs to be found.
You see, that’s the difference. Bonita clearly got that message. The Bearcats didn’t enter Citrus College on Thursday as the 2010 team. They entered as the ’11 version that’s ready to claw and scratch for everything it gets. And for that reason, the Smudgepot is staying put.
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