Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bonagura's Winning Boot Uplifting

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bonagura's Winning Boot Uplifting

Article excerpt

UNION - David Bonagura was staring at uprights 48 yards away. He had a backup holder with him, Connor Russo, and was attempting the longest kick in his high school career with a sectional title on the line for Ramapo.

He felt no pressure. In his mind he heard the words of his coach, North Jersey kicking guru Pat Sempier, "Head down, swing up."

Bonagura, a senior, stepped forward and knocked the kick through with six seconds left to lift Ramapo to a 37-34 victory over Sparta and the North 1, Group 3 title Saturday at Kean Alumni Stadium. He kept his head down, and brought his whole team up.

"I'm always told you are only as good as your last kick," said Bonagura. "That's how it was. All I was thinking was what Pat always tells me. I had to trust my holder and my snapper. This is just a dream come true."

Ramapo has a tradition of great place-kickers with Bonagura the latest in line. He even has his own website: njkicker.com. The Franklin Lakes native played soccer for 10 years before trying to boot a football for the first time freshman year.

"We knew what we wanted him to do," said Ramapo coach Drew Gibbs. "Sophomore year, I said, 'Dave - you know, he's a big kid and could start on the offensive line - I said Dave, are you a football player or a kicker?' He said, 'Coach, I'm a kicker.' "

Bonagura was a kicker running for his life for most of the first half. He also punts for the Green Raiders and three different times in the second quarter, he had snaps sail over his head. One time he was nailed for a 16-yard loss, another time he lost 24 yards, and another time he threw an awkward pass out of the end zone for a safety.

"I've never been banged up like that," said Bonagura. "I guess it woke me up a little bit. Everything was going blurry and I think that actually helped me in the end because a kicker can't think. I guess it helped."

Largely because of the special teams miscues, Sparta jumped out to a 26-7 lead at halftime.

"We played horrible in the first half. We were picked to win by you guys and so maybe we figured we would show up and win the state championship, because that's how we played," said Gibbs. …

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