By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Before the Bonita High School football team can start thinking about its showdown with West Covina in two weeks, it has a dangerous proposition to deal with in Walnut on Friday night. The Bearcats know all too well what Walnut is capable of, thanks to last year’s 30-15 loss to the Mustangs. That was when the teams were in different leagues. Now they’re both in the Hacienda League, and at 3-3 overall and 1-2 in league, Walnut is a desperate team.
“I’m always scared to death whenever we play Walnut,” Bonita coach Eric Podley said. “We have had a lot of bad things occur when we’ve played them. We’ve had some decent games, but others where we didn’t put our best football forward.”
Bonita has lots to lose if it’s caught looking ahead to West Covina. The Bearcats are 6-0, but still have games with the aforementioned Bulldogs, as well as Rowland and Diamond Ranch. A loss to Walnut, and the pressure’s really on Bonita to win its next three games or risk not only losing a league title, but missing the playoffs altogether.
Walnut, though, is in an even more precarious position. The Mustangs already have league losses to West Covina and Diamond Ranch, so a loss to Bonita all but eliminates the Mustangs from playoff contention.
“Their backs are to the wall, and those kinds of teams are often dangerous,” Podley said. “They certainly have the talent to be a dangerous team, and we expect we’ll see everything they have to offer and then some.”
Because the Bearcats and Mustangs were in different five-team leagues up until this year, the game was a natural fit as a stern late-season test that kept both squads sharp but didn’t hurt the loser in terms of league standing.
Walnut won last year’s game with ease and is 5-3 in the series since 2002.
Podley says a look ahead by his team probably won’t happen, if this week’s preparations are any indicator.
“To be frank, Walnut embarrassed us last year, and most of our kids are back from that team,” Podley said. “Our kids know we’ve always had a difficult time with them.
“That’s been the theme this week – getting the kids to realize the toughest part of the schedule is ahead of them. That means not reading the newspapers, staying off the blogs and bringing our hard hats to work every day.”