Diamond Ranch was heading for apparent league title contention last season until dropping its final two games to Bonita and West Covina, who later played for the CIF title, by a combined score of 79-20. An uncharacteristic first-round playoff loss following consecutive trips to the CIF-SS Southeast Division championship game and the loss of its starting quarterback to baseball have created some uncertainty for Diamond Ranch this season.
The Panthers are replacing more than they expected after losing two running backs to college football and their star receiver in addition to a quarterback they figured would return. With Cesar Carillo electing to focus on baseball, senior Isiah Locke will step in to quarterback a team that will rely on a strong offensive front.
“We like what we’re doing up front on both sides of the ball and that’s where is starts,” Diamond Ranch head coach Roddy Layton said. “If we have strong line play that will establish the running game and help open up the pass.”
The running back and receiver spots will rotate in a number of players, led by the diminutive but athletic 5-9, 167-pound Andrew Fischer. Chris Miller, a 6-1, 190-pound senior could emerge as the primary ball carrier.
Layton expects the defense to be the strength of the team with an experienced front seven led by linebacker Jacob Ardron and 6-3, 245-pound defensive tackle Blake Benjamin, who also will play offensive tackle.
“We’ve got a solid defensive line and a deep linebacker corps,” Layton said. “Our DBs are young but we like what we have.”