Bearer leads surge

Bruce Bearer is a self-described sports junkie.

He's not just the senior goalie for the Corona del Mar High boys' water polo team. He's also the former basketball guard. One of his favorite activiities in his free time is to go golfing with dad.

"My life is basically athletics-based," Bearer said. "I love to play sports and follow sports. I've played everything."

The fall season means it's fantasy football time. Bearer has one of the top quarterbacks in the game on his squad, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

Bearer, in turn, quarterbacks the defense for the Sea Kings. And the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week is getting better and better at that role.

He had 11 saves in the Sea Kings' Battle of the Bay win over rival Newport Harbor on Oct. 23. He followed that up three days later with a season-high 16 saves against Irvine, a win that all but clinched the Pacific Coast League title for CdM.

The Sea Kings, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division II poll, came out determined against the rival Sailors. Bearer, a team captain, said a performance like that was due.

"We felt like we needed to come together for one big game, and there was no better game than the Battle of the Bay," Bearer said. "We had a unanimous feeling that we just needed a big win. [Newport Harbor] is pretty notorious for their press, and I think we threw their press back at them. I think we came out with more energy."

Bearer brings energy for CdM to the pool, to the weight room or wherever else he goes. His teammates notice it, and so does CdM Coach Barry O'Dea.

Bearer shoulders the load — even with a sore shoulder.

"Bruce is one of the hardest-working players, day in and day out," O'Dea said. "His shoulder's been bothering him, but he doesn't complain. He does such a good job at getting himself prepared. He's become just a master at that. A lof of times your goalie is one of your better athletes on the team, and he definitely is that."

Bearer, a two-year starter on varsity, is in his fifth year playing goalie. Originally, when he first started playing water polo at age 9, he was a field player.

That changed when Ted Bandaruk, who runs the CdM youth program, approached him prior to his eighth-grade year.

"We were pretty lacking in the goal in junior polo," Bearer said. "Our older goalies had moved on to high school. I think Coach Ted just saw something in me. It was pretty random. I wasn't expecting it, but it worked out. Once I started playing more in the goal, I warmed up to the idea. I left my field-playing days behind."

He took advantage of his opportunity. Then Bearer did the same two summers ago. Isle Anderson, a returning starter in goal, suffered an eye injury in the offseason. Bearer, then an incoming junior, worked hard and earned the starting spot last year, although Anderson also played.

Bearer hasn't looked back. He said he gained confidence during last yaer's regular season with a 17-save performance against El Toro, and another stellar showing against Mater Dei.

Bearer earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors and helped lead the team to the Division I semifinals. He lives for the big moment.

"In all our big games this year, he's come up big," O'Dea said. "We don't win the Irvine game or even the Newport game without him."

O'Dea said his goalie has blocked seven or eight penalty shots this year. He blocked one Tuesday against Irvine as well.

"It's playing a mind game with the shooter," said Bearer, whose younger brother, Matt, plays on the CdM freshman football team.

"It's a high-percentage shot as a shooter, but it's really exciting as a goalie when you guess right and block one."

Bearer doesn't have to guess about CIF; he knows the Sea Kings will be a team to be reckoned with in Division II, just as Newport Harbor will be in Division I.

One of the things that makes the CdM vs. Newport Harbor rivalry so great is that many of the kids know each other. Like Bearer, Newport Harbor goalie Chris Whitelegge played basketball growing up. Both played freshman year at their respective schools.

"I remember playing him freshman year, and growing up in NJB and Boys and Girls Club," Bearer said. " It's funny where we both turned up."

The Sea Kings are glad Bearer turned up between the pipes.

Bruce Bearer

Born: March 24, 1993

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 170 pounds

Sport: Water polo

Coach: Barry O'Dea

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite movie: "Pineapple Express"

Favorite athletic moment: Beating Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay, 13-10, on Oct. 23.

Week in review: Bearer made 11 saves to help the Sea Kings top Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.

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