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Bears see red against Rialto

Sept. 14, 2018, is a date etched into the minds and hearts of the Big Bear High School varsity football team. The Bears haven’t forgotten their 24-13 loss to Rialto on that toasty evening down the hill.

Fast forward 12 months and a week, and Rialto travels to the mountains Saturday, Sept. 21. It’s a rematch the Bears have been looking forward to since the 2019 schedule was announced.

“You know, as coaches we don’t put too much stock into it, but I think (the kids) have been looking for it,” Big Bear head coach Dave Griffiths said. “They voted to wear all red for this game instead of at homecoming. That shows that this game means something to them. That’s fine as long as we stay within ourselves and do our jobs.”

The Bears enter the Rialto contest with a 1-3 record. After an 0-3 start, Big Bear unleashed its frustration against San Bernardino on homecoming Sept. 14 with a 36-0 shut out. The Big Bear offense was led by senior slotback Paul Domingue, who scored four touchdowns while rushing for 151 yards and catching a 40-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Sammy Volpicelli. Senior fullback Markus Napolitano scored the other touchdown for the Bears. Volpicelli went 4-for-4 in the air for 89 yards without an interception.

Rialto comes to Big Bear sporting a 1-2 record. The Knights had a bye last week. Rialto has had an up-and-down season so far, losing its opener to Orange Vista 34-0 and its latest game against Rubidoux by a score of 30-15. Rialto’s lone victory came on Aug. 30 at home with a 63-45 victory over La Sierra.

“They are going to be another good football team we face,” Griffiths said. “They come from a very good league. It’s another big test for us.”

Kickoff at Minder Field for varsity is at 1:30 p.m. Earlier in the day, the Big Bear frosh-soph team hosts Rialto’s junior varsity at 10:45 a.m. at Minder Field.

“We saw a lot of good things (against San Bernardino),” Griffiths said about the Bears’ continued improvement. “We need to get healthy again, especially at fullback. Markus (Napolitano) can’t carry the load and play defense, too. And Sammy is getting better every game.”

The defense did a good job, Griffiths said. “(San Bernardino) did some things we hadn’t seen, and our kids adjusted well,” the Big Bear coach said. “Moving Fernie (Vela) to safety was key for us. He has a keen sense for where the ball is.”

Vela intercepted two passes in the San Bernardino game.

Griffiths said the key for the Bears is to keep their assignments. “At times the kids try to do too much,” Griffiths said. “When we do what we’re supposed to do, we see good things.”