“I wouldn’t call it a full-blown collapse, but I will say that we’re not finishing. For whatever reason, we start to get a little complacent. We haven’t shown that killer instinct these last three games. That has to come out. We have to have that killer instinct. We can never be satisfied with the lead.” — Bonita coach Adrian Medrano on Bearcats losing final two games after winning five straight
“We’re not disappointed in the draw. It’s our first year back in the playoffs after back-to-back 3-7 seasons, so we’re happy to be in it. We’re just going to go have a good time.” — South Hills coach Albert Rodriguez on facing Vista Murrieta, the No. 1 ranked team in California.
By Aram Tolegian, SGVN
Any way you slice it, Bonita High School is not entering the football playoffs heading in the right direction.
The Bearcats blew their shot at an outright Hacienda League championship by losing their final two games of the season despite having leads in both games. Now, they’re hoping to right the ship in time for Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs first-round game against Santa Fe. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Bonita.
“I wouldn’t call it a full-blown collapse, but I will say that we’re not finishing,” first-year Bearcats coach Adrian Medrano said. “For whatever reason, we start to get a little complacent. We haven’t shown that killer instinct these last three games.
“That has to come out. We have to have that killer instinct. We can never be satisfied with the lead.”
Bonita, which enters the postseason with a 5-5 record, finished in a four-way tie for the league championship with West Covina, Rowland and Diamond Ranch. But West Covina won the league’s tiebreakers and entered the playoffs as the league’s top team.
That has to sting for Bonita, which opened league play with a 4-0 record only to lose close games to Diamond Ranch and Diamond Bar in the final two games of the season. Even more frustrating to Bearcats fans was that their team held a 20-7 lead over Diamond Ranch before losing 34-31 and led Diamond Bar 24-7 at halftime before losing 25-24.
“Even against Los Altos, we started the game off up 17-0,” Medrano said of Bonita’s 35-31 win over the Conquerors three weeks ago, which started a pattern of blowing leads. “If we learn a lesson this week, our season is done. We just need to stay the course and make sure we have the right attitude every day.
“Guys who are our leaders need to step up. I thought that some guys who are leaders on our team had a chance to step up against Diamond Bar and that didn’t happen.”
Santa Fe also enters Friday’s game with a 5-5 record. The Chiefs finished second in the Del Rio League behind La Serna and played a tough nonleague schedule that included the likes of St. John Bosco, Chaparral and Corona Santiago.
“They’re well-coached and tough,” Medrano said of Santa Fe. “They play tough football out in that area. Santa Fe has a culture of winning and it has a culture of toughness of discipline.”
SOUTH HILLS IN DEEP
After missing the playoffs for the past two seasons, South Hills is very happy to be back in the postseason even if it means being thrown to the wolves in the Inland Division with a road game against arguably the best team in Southern California, Vista Murrieta.
The Huskies finished the regular season at 6-4 and placed third in the Sierra League. Being third in the Sierra is a double-edged sword, however, with that team annually becoming fodder for the division’s top seed in the first round.
“We’re not disappointed in the draw,” first-year South Hills coach Albert Rodriguez said. “It’s our first year back in the playoffs after back-to-back 3-7 seasons, so we’re happy to be in it. We’re just going to go have a good time.”
Vista Murrieta enters the postseason with high expectations after a 10-0 regular season. The Broncos won the division last season and another title could send them on their way to a state championship bowl game.
For South Hills, it’s the program’s first trip to the Inland Division playoffs since stunningly being placed in the division three seasons ago after a decade of success in lower divisions.
“I knew there was a chance that we would play them,” Rodriguez said. “It’s definitely a reward for making the playoffs, but all joking aside like I told our kids this is like a celebration. We’ve had a great year. We’re treating it like it’s a little bowl game.
“We’ve been watching them (on video) the past two days. That’s one of the best football teams I’ve seen on film since I’ve been doing this. They live up to every bit of it, without a doubt.”
Rodriguez wasn’t about to get controversial about South Hills being in the same division as Vista Murrieta, but like many others he has no answers as to why the Huskies are where they are.
“It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” Rodriguez said. “But we can’t control that. I can’t get into all that. That’s for the powers that be to figure all that out.”
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