The words “football championship” and “Bonanza High School” never really have gone together.
But the Bengals (6-2, 5-0 Southwest League) can take a huge step toward changing that when they play at fifth-ranked Spring Valley at 7 tonight.
With a win, Bonanza can set up a first-place showdown with defending state champion Bishop Gorman in the regular-season finale Thursday.
“They’re excited for the opportunity to be in the position that we’re in,” Bonanza coach Shawn Dupris said. “And they’re excited to prove to the skeptics or the people that don’t believe and never have believed in Bonanza football that things can change and programs can change.”
The Bengals haven’t had much success in recent years. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and went 2-16 in the Southwest League in the last three seasons. They were 5-24 overall in that span.
A win tonight would guarantee Bonanza a home game for the first round of the Sunset Region playoffs.
“I’m really excited,” Bonanza senior Aaron Simon said. “It’s the biggest game I’ve played in for my whole high school (career). We’ve got a chance to get home-field advantage. It’s a big deal.”
Bonanza started 0-2 but has won six in a row. The losses came by one point to Green Valley (6-2) and by nine to Legacy (7-1).
Those close games against good teams started to build the team’s confidence, and a favorable league schedule didn’t hurt. The Bengals’ five league victories have come against teams with a combined 8-31 record.
Those five league opponents have combined for one victory against a 4A school outside the Southwest League.
“I don’t know how these next two games will go, but it would be hard to start off with a tough loss or something like that in conference,” Simon said. “It’s been awesome being able to say we’re with Gorman at the top of the conference, so the schedule definitely helped.”
So has the presence of Simon and running back Antonio Beals, who give the Bengals two big-play threats.
Beals has rushed for an area-best 1,446 yards and 17 touchdowns. Simon has been an all-purpose threat, with 10 total TDs.
“I don’t like to lean on (Beals),” Simon said. “I try to do my part. And if I can ever pull anything off, I know that next play, he’s probably going somewhere.”
Bonanza will try to use its speed to counter the size of Spring Valley’s offensive line.
“We know they’re big, but we’re fast,” Dupris said. “And I like speed. It’s nice to have those big guys, but it’s nice to run around those big guys, too.”