Smudge Pot XXXVII: Pizza Fundraiser nets $5,619

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
San Dimas High School will host the 37th annual Smudge Pot football game against Bonita on Friday, a contest that drew more than 5,000 fans at Bonita last year and raised more than $6,000 for charity. San Dimas is looking for its third consecutive Smudge Pot victory and owns a 19-16-1 lead in the series. It’s become such a huge rivalry Bonita coach Eric Podley jokingly described it as “the contract renewal game.”

You don’t want to lose too many of these,” he said. “Our kids are aware of how big it is and what it means. And if you’re a coach, losing to them (San Dimas) isn’t good for future employment.”

San Dimas is 3-1 while the Bearcats are 1-3, but Saints coach Bill Zernickow said records are meaningless.

“We could have the worst records in the Valley, but if you win this game it saves your season in the eyes of the community,” Zernickow said. “Both towns count on this game.

“You know, if we were in Texas, it is the kind of win that could save your job.”

A couple years ago a fight broke out in the stands between San Dimas and Bonita parents during a 2007 girls volleyball match. The brawl created negative publicity for the schools but helped bring about a pizza-eating fundraiser started last year.

On Friday, players from San Dimas and Bonita’s football teams met in an event that raises money for the Special Warrior Foundation, which provides full scholarship grants and family counseling to surviving children of special operations personnel who die in operational or training missions and immediate financial assistance to wounded special operations personnel and their families.

“What happened in volleyball that day wasn’t reflective of our rivalry or our communities,” Podley said. “We started this fundraiser to show that the kids and our communities are better than what occurred that day.

“So far, it has been a win-win for everyone. It has been a great way to turn a negative incident into something very positive for a lot of people.”

The pizza fundraiser raised more than $5,600 on Friday. With $1 from every ticket sold to Friday’s game going to the foundation, school officials are hoping to raise at least $10,000.

“I think it’s awesome, we’re going to crush it (the total raised from last year),” Zernickow said. “Since we started this, it has been great for the kids. It gives them a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves, and it also takes a little edge off the rivalry because it’s such an emotional game.”

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