Bonita’s Tanner Diebold (AKA Sunshine), hoping to lead Bearcats past San Dimas in Thursday’s Smudgepot at Citrus College

By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Tanner Diebold couldn’t ask for a better situation to start building his legend at Bonita High School. The sophomore quarterback, nicknamed “Sunshine” by his teammates because of his blonde hair, will make the first start of what he hopes will be a banner varsity career against archrival San Dimas in Thursday’s renewal of the Smudge Pot Game at Citrus College. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be fun,” Diebold said. “I’ve thought about it, but I’m going to play like it’s any other game. I think I’m going to be a little nervous, but I’m going to try and block everything else out and just play. “Yeah, it’s going to be the first varsity game I’ve played. I’m going to try my best and do the best I can.”
Diebold led Bonita’s freshmen team to a 10-0 record last season. While he was doing that, the Bearcats varsity was busy marching all the way to the CIF-SS Southeast Division final under the guidance of senior quarterbacks Greg Spathias and Garrett Pendleton.
With those two now graduated, Diebold has inherited the position after narrowly winning a heated battle with senior Aaron Burgett, but Diebold’s initial foray into life under the lights as Bonita’s starting signal caller could be short-lived if he’s not yet up to the challenge.

“If one guy’s not doing well, we won’t hesitate to put the other guy in there,” Bonita coach Eric Podley said. “We expect him to do the job, and if he can’t, there’s another quarterback behind him.”

Quarterback wasn’t the only position at which the Bearcats were hit hard by graduation, but there’s enough returning talent at other spots to put together another good season. None of it, however, will come to fruition if Bonita can’t get at least adequate play out of its quarterbacks and that’s been the elephant in the room the entire offseason.

Diebold is well aware of this, and admits that the amount of weapons at his disposal should be an asset and make his job easier.

“We have a really good line, receivers and backs,” Diebold said. “It’s going to take some pressure off me, knowing that.”

Although Bonita’s coaching staff may be trying to shield Diebold from the hype of the Smudge Pot Game, it may be a losing battle, since last year’s environment is still etched in his mind. And that was only as a spectator.

“I didn’t really know how big it was until last year,” Diebold said. “I thought it was crazy – how loud it was, and there were so many people. That was before the season even started last year, so I didn’t even think about that I could be even playing in the game this year. I just thought there was a ton of people and it was super loud.”

Given Diebold’s age and lack of experience, it’s safe to expect that San Dimas’ defense will try to pressure the youngster and force him into mistakes.

Podley said that won’t dictate his play calling, though, and make Bonita conservative.

“We are what we are and we do what we do,” Podley said. “We expect our quarterbacks to go with that flow. He’s trained all spring, summer and fall camp with that.”

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Diebold. If he guides the Bearcats to a win over the Saints, he’ll be a hero on campus, and the rest of the season may be a downhill proposition for him.

For those reasons, Diebold isn’t expecting much in the way of rest the night before the game.

“I’m a really heavy sleeper,” Diebold said, “but that’s once I get to sleep.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to fall asleep like normal.”

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  • QB Coach

    Tanner is a great kid with a bright future but he is just not ready. His feet, reads and arm are still to slow for the varsity game. Rushing him can do more long term damage than good. He can play in spurts but he is not ready to be a full time varsity QB. I will be very surprised if Podely does not come up with some type of QB rotation to help bring him along. This not hating just straight football talk.
    I wish my Bearcat buddies good luck this week. The smugepot is one of the funest game in high school football.

  • Bohi Fan

    Congrats Tanner and good luck this season. You have worked hard and deserve this shot!

  • Aaron

    Tanner’s a great kid…he’s also going to be really good. I don’t think Coach Podley would have him be the guy if he wasn’t the best QB out there on the field. Good luck Tanner!


  • QB Coach

    Aaron I totally agree with the fact he is the best option. The only challenge with that is that it mean he is ready.
    I will be out there tomorrow and i will be cheering him on in hopes I’m wrong.
    Just dont be surprised if you see a 2 dual QB approach.

  • reality

    Have been watching Podley and Chastain groom this kid for a year and a half and he is ready. Podley is smart in telling you guys there is another QB in the wings but then there always is, and it helps ease some of the pressure on the soph. Podley has developed another scheme that fits this guys style to a tee and with a better running and receiving corp than last year I totally expect the bearcats to be excellent. He may come out early but that will be because Bonita will be winning big.

  • USC QB

    I fear that QB coach is watching too much NFL live, I think I heard Trent Dilfer say that about Colt McCoy yesterday.
    Here is the truth about Diebold, I have had the pleasure of working out with this kid. Aside from being a smart and humble kid, his arm strength is head and shoulders above his competition. He is well liked by his teammates and demonstrates great speed on the run. He did not throw an interception during his entire frosh football season, and has shown a better ability to make reads, considering that he has thrown far less interceptions then his competition in passing league. He will make mistakes, we all do at the quarterback position. I believe he will surprise everyone by the end of the season. Remember, if Tanner was born 6 weeks later, he would be a freshman this year. Leave the kid alone and thank the football gods, that he is playing for Bonita for the next 3 years versus your rivals. Just work hard for your team and keep making good decisions Tanner, and they will work hard for you! Good luck man!


    The decision was made by coach Podley who I guess might know something about his teams; present,past and future…

    Is Tanner Young? Yes! Is Tanner ready? Sometimes being young just might play like he’s a senior. Who knows what will happen tomorrow but one thing for sure, he’ll get some real big time experience right out of the gate. Can only be a positive move on Podley part. He’ll learn so much over the next 3+ years and if he stays healthly, smart and grounded he’ll do just fine.

    Good Luck SUNSHINE! I’m on the fence with the winner but will enjoy watching this match up again…. Football season is here! Enjoy it, it goes by fast…….