Tanner Diebold admitted he felt jittery, if not completely nervous, when he saw fans streaming into Citrus Stadium for the annual Smudge Pot game between rivals Bonita and San Dimas on Thursday night. The sophomore quarterback attended the showdown in 2010 but going as a fan didn't quite prepare him for what he felt on the field during pregame.
"Before it all started I was real nervous," Diebold said following Bonita's dominant 40-20 win. "After the first series everything settled down. It was like playing in any other game."
Diebold, making his first varsity appearance, was shaky throwing the ball, completing only five of 13 pass attempts for 71 yards. He missed some throws early, though his receivers dropped at least four balls. Diebold made an adjustment and his first throw of the second half was a 19-yard laser up the middle that led Garrett Horine into the end zone. Bonita's student section, one of the liveliest in the area, chanted his name on various occasions.
Bonita coach Eric Podley said Diebold "looked like a rookie" but, overall, was pleased with how the sophomore directed his shotgun offense.
"I think he has unlimited capabilities," Podley said. "But he's got to show some progress."
Some of that development hinges on how he adjusts to the faster pace of the varsity game. Diebold guided Bonita's freshmen team to a 10-0 record last year, but he said he could stand in the pocket for a good while and scan every option. Now Diebold has to make his read and fire quickly.
Diebold takes over for Garrett Pendleton, who completed 63 percent of his passes and threw for 2,033 yards and 22 touchdowns in leading the Bearcats to the Southeast Division championship game last season. Bonita opened this campaign ranked No. 2 in the division, according to the CIF Southern Section poll.
"They had a really good season last year and Garrett was a really good quarterback," Diebold said. "I want to do the same."
Senior tailback Cameron Griffin, who ran for two scores Thursday, believes Diebold has what it takes to lead Bonita. The Bearcats play at Claremont (1-0) on Friday.
"I was scared to see if Tanner would step up, but he did," Griffin said. "He can throw the ball as far as any of our guys and he's got great accuracy. If we catch the ball for him we'll score even more. ... He was good, he controlled all of us. He was more of a captain than I think I was."
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.