Tom Bonds spent the past four years battling defenses as quarterback of the Cal Lutheran football team. Saturday, after his college career had come to an end, he found himself battling tears.
"It's sad," Bonds said after the Kingsmen defeated St. Mary's, 13-3, at Mount Clef Stadium. "I've played football for 13 years, since I was little."
Bonds paused, swallowing hard.
"It's going to be tough."
The quarterback posed for pictures with his arm around teammates, 18 of whom also were playing in their final game at CLU. Later he posed with his father, Jim.
"We've watched them all together for four years," said Jim Bonds, who also shed tears. "I'm really proud to be a Kingsman."
In recent years, at least, that has not always been easy.
Although Cal Lutheran struggled through its second consecutive losing season with a 5-6 record, the Kingsmen win over St. Mary's brought a positive ending to the record-setting quarterback's career.
"It couldn't have been better," Bonds said.
He meant the game. But outside of an abundance of losses and a few injuries, Bonds' personal career also could hardly have been better.
The quarterback owns 11 school records, six Western Football Conference records, and an NCAA Division II record for most completions (44) in a game. Saturday, Bonds added to his career passing marks, completing 15 of 25 passes for 104 yards. He has 7,773 yards in his career, ranking him sixth all-time among Division II passers.
The game with St. Mary's (8-3), however, was dominated by the Cal Lutheran defense.
"I thought there would be a lot more points on the board," Bonds said. "But our defense just dominated and set the tone. All we had to do was control the clock."
The Kingsmen were outgained in total yards by the Gaels, 226-193. But Cal Lutheran's defense came up with the big plays, sacking St. Mary's quarterback Tim Rosenkranz 13 times for minus-67 yards.
Leading the charge was linebacker Earl Bentancourt, who recorded a school-record seven sacks. Bentancourt, who also played his final game as a Kingsman, had 23 sacks this season, another school record.
"The last quarter, they were triple-teaming me," Bentancourt said. "I didn't care about the record, as long as we won."
Cal Lutheran drove 85 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Bonds, who completed five passes on the drive for 68 yards, hit tight end Mark Jones with a 10-yard pass for his 57th career touchdown.
Cal Lutheran extended its lead on a 33-yard field goal by Bill Hawk early in the second quarter.
St. Mary's scored its points when placekicker Alex Bauer's 33-yard field-goal attempt hit the crossbar and tumbled over.
Hawk added a third-quarter field goal from 25 yards to complete the scoring. The rest of the game belonged to the Kingsmen defense.
"Our defense was just super the last four weeks," CLU Coach Bob Shoup said. "Bentancourt is one of the most magnificent football players I have ever known."
The 5-10, 200-pound linebacker, who battled back from reconstructive knee surgery two years ago, dominated the game. But in the end, Bentancourt turned the spotlight back on Bonds.
"If I was overlooked sometimes, that's fine," Bentancourt said. "I still had a successful career. I enjoyed playing with Tom. He's a great player."
And perhaps the greatest quarterback in Cal Lutheran history. His records notwithstanding, it was this final game, the last moment, that seemingly meant the most to Bonds.
"I'm just glad," he said, "that we went out winning."