Advertisement

Brea’s Long Wait for Title Is Extended

Share
TIMES STAFF WRITER

At the conclusion of a season in which it steamrolled weaker opponents and rose to the challenge time and again against bigger powers, Brea Olinda reached its goal of playing in its first Southern Section title in 36 years.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they couldn’t close the deal.

It wasn’t that the usual Brea suspects didn’t chip in with their usual big games. Kenny Washington had another standout performance with more than 100 yards rushing. Quarterback Steve Stagnaro surpassed the 100-yard mark before halftime. And defensive back Nick Stagnaro continued his opportunistic play with a blocked field goal.

It was just that the Wildcats couldn’t overcome a couple of untimely mistakes or Bonita running back DeAndre Belin, who rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns.

Advertisement

Belin led the top-seeded Bearcats to a 24-14 victory over second-seeded Brea in the Division IX championship game Friday before 6,500 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

The victory gave Bonita (14-0) its first championship since 1945. The Wildcats (12-1-1) will have to wait another year to try for their first title since 1963.

“This is incredible,” Bearcat Coach Larry Hatley said. “The entire community was out here--friends, family members. They waited a long time for this.”

Brea was in excellent shape heading into the fourth quarter, leading 14-10 with the ball at the Bearcat 44-yard line. But Steve Stagnaro made a poor handoff to running back Ryan Fortner, who fumbled the ball.

It was one of three second-half turnovers for the Wildcats.

Bonita took the lead for good on Belin’s second touchdown of the game, a 32-yarder with 3:06 left to play, that put the Bearcats ahead, 17-14. Bonita had marched 73 yards in nine plays on the drive.

“They just put together a CIF-title [caliber] drive,” Brea Olinda Coach Jon Looney said.

The Wildcats lost any chance to retake the lead later in the fourth quarter when Steve Stagnaro threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Advertisement

“I give them credit,” Looney said. “They got the job done and we didn’t.”

Belin added some insurance with a 35-yard touchdown around left end to set the final score with 1:25 remaining.

Bonita fans should rejoice twice over. Belin, a junior, will return next year to lead the Bearcats.

“He’s a good back,” Looney said. “We just didn’t execute defensively at times.”

For his part, Washington finished with 103 yards rushing and a touchdown for Brea.

“Kenny’s a stud,” Looney said. “[But Bonita] keyed on him. They kept him in check.”

Perhaps Brea’s biggest miscue came after it reached the Bonita 5 on the opening drive of the third quarter. Steve Stagnaro threw a pass into traffic that was intercepted by Bonita linebacker Cheyne White.

“We got down there and couldn’t get in,” Looney said. “We had them right where we wanted them.” Brea led 14-10 at halftime thanks in part to a blocked field goal and another missed field-goal attempt by Bonita.

The Bearcats drove deep into Wildcat territory on their first possession of the game only to have Nick Stagnaro block Zach Bussey’s 42-yard attempt.

Early in the second quarter, Bussey’s 47-yard attempt had the distance but hit the left upright and bounced away.

Advertisement

The Wildcats went ahead, 7-0, midway through the first quarter after Washington plunged into the end zone from three yards out. The score was set up by a 50-yard strike down the middle from Stagnaro to Ron Benigno.

Bonita tied the game on its next possession when Belin broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and ran up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown.

The Bearcats had a chance to take the lead on their next drive but failed when Bussey’s 47-yarder missed.

Advertisement