Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 | 1 a.m.
When coach Dion Lee took over as head coach at Bonanza this year he knew it was a rebuilding project.
The Bengals were 7-29 in the last four years and had little reason to believe in themselves.
It’s something that Lee has been trying to overcome since he became coach, and Friday night with his team facing a fourth down in the fourth quarter of a tie game, Lee spotted a perfect opportunity.
The coach waved off the punt team and kept the offense on the field for one more shot.
Quarterback Cannon Reid hit RJ McCarter on a slant route, and McCarter raced past the defense for the game-winning touchdown.
“If I don’t believe we can, then they won’t believe,” Lee said. “That’s one of those things about getting over the Bonanza hump. When you’ve been losing over the last five or six years you have to give them some belief that they can get it done.”
The Bengals beat rival Spring Valley 20-14 in the Banner Game to take possession of the symbolic emblem for the first time in three years.
“Cannon put it in the perfect place, I caught it and I just knew I had to get into the end zone,” McCarter said. “There was one guy to beat and I had to beat him.”
It wasn’t the first time during the game that Lee took a chance with aggressive play calling. The Bengals went for it on fourth down multiple times and surprised Spring Valley with a successful onside kick early in the game.
“We just have confidence, and coach calls the perfect plays,” Reid said.
Senior running back Ricardo Hill carried the ball 29 times for 159 yards to lead Bonanza on offense.
“I feel really good because these are my brothers and I do everything that I can for them,” Hill said. “We are one big family, so I’m happy that they trust me.”
Hill also played some safety late in the game and helped Bonanza stop Spring Valley on their last-ditch effort to win the game on a final drive that stalled in the final seconds.
“He is our workhorse on offense,” Lee said. “We went to him in the fourth quarter. He doesn’t play defense often but when you’re down to only 25 players and you look to the sidelines you have to go with your best players down the stretch.”
The Bengals’ sideline was littered with players being stretched out with muscle cramps, as nearly every player on the roster was playing both ways.
“The guys have been in the last two games, but we couldn’t close them out,” Lee said. “Today was about keeping them mentally tough. I kept telling them that I know they’re tired but we have to have another play and then another play.”
Bonanza moved to 2-4 with the win and has winnable games against Del Sol (4-4), Clark (1-6) and Desert Oasis (1-5) to close out the season.
“I have to get my guys to believe in me, and let them know that I believe in them,” Lee said. “That’s the first step in the process and I think we are doing that.”