Malibu Sharkies Make Home Debut at MHS

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Coach Michael Bonewitz speaks to his junior team at halftime during the team’s first home game. 

Not since the days of the 1980s Malibu Mustangs had a youth tackle football game been held in the city. Thirty years later, it became reality once again.

In front of an enthusiastic group of parents and fans, including several members of the Malibu High varsity football team, the Malibu Sharkies made their home debut on Saturday at the Junior (ages nine, 10, 11) and Junior 2 (11, 12, and 13) levels. 

Following the Junior Sharkies loss to the Santa Paula Cardinals (42-14) the Junior 2 Sharkies were outmanned in a 42-0 loss to the Grace Brethren Lancers. But on this day, the losses were insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

It was a day of personal pride as the Sharkies played on its home field for the very first time after beginning the season on the road for the initial four weeks.

“You should feel good and proud about yourselves. You fought hard and we did the best we could. We are going to continue to get better,” Sharkies coach Michael Bonewitz told the Junior team after losing to Santa Paula.

Also in attendance were two former Mustang coaches, Russ Banducci and Danny Klein, whose sons played for the Malibu Mustangs.

Donning the same black-and-teal as their high school counterparts, the Malibu Sharkies and their fledgling first-year program battled every step of the way despite numerous bumps and bruises.

While Michael’s wife, Kim, provided water, oranges and attended to injured players throughout the game, a confident and proud coach stalked the sidelines with his chest out and head high.

“It’s the first year and it’s tough. There is a lot to learn and a lot to catch up with compared to some of the other teams who have been around for years. It’s an uphill battle right now,” Bonewitz said after the game. “But I’m very proud of all our Malibu boys in that they keep fighting. They get injured and come right back off the bench.”

Just like the first name of Bonewitz’s son, the Sharks played with spirit throughout the game.

“It’s really fun. The only part that is not fun is when you get hurt,” Spirit Bonewitz said. “I like playing and it makes me feel good.”

Time and time again, the Sharkies fought toe-to-toe against the bigger and more experienced Cardinals.

Despite falling behind 42-0, the Sharkies scored two fourth quarter touchdowns that amped up the crowd and brought plenty of smiles to the boys on the team.

Quarterback Dmitri Kelly connected with wide receiver Casey Kelly on back-to-back 40-yard touchdown passes that demonstrated the Sharkies’ ability to play at this level.

“The first time we just slanted to the middle and the second time we slanted to the outside. We realized that no one was out there so we threw to an open area to run,” Dmitri, 11, said. “I was pretty happy. We were losing by a lot but we scored twice which was good.”

Along with his two touchdown catches, Casey Kelly returned the opening kickoff for 10 yards, and just like that, junior tackle football was back again in Malibu.

“Dmitri is awesome. He’s one of my best friends and he is good,” Casey, 10, said. “It felt so good to be at home scoring those two touchdowns. It’s been 30 years.”

Bonewitz, the founder and president of the Malibu Sharkies, was thrilled to see his team execute the two different plays. It represented the team’s resilient attitude and maturation as a program since they first started practicing in August.

“We were successful at that. We saw a weakness and took advantage of it,” said Bonewitz. “The kids performed well. The technique and skills have to be developed. But the spirit of a champion is there. It’s just yet to be revealed.”

It will take time to develop skill and win games but one thing is for sure — youth football is back in Malibu and the Sharkies are enjoying it.