Hacienda League title, CIF title… what’s the difference?

Only two teams from the CIF-SS Southeast Division played 14 games last season. They both hail from the Hacienda League.

Bonita and West Covina played twice in 2010, once for the Hacienda League championship and once for the CIF title. West Covina walked away with all the hardware, though it took a late drive to earn a 37-33 win in the Southeast Division championship game.

With Hacienda League play beginning this week, West (3-1) Covina again sits atop the Southeast Division rankings, but the difference this season is Bonita is the league’s only other team to grace the top 10. Six squads from the seven-team league formed last year spent time in the 2010 rankings.

“West Covina is the league favorite again, in my opinion,” Diamond Bar coach Ryan Maine said. “The rest of the league could have plenty of upsets. It’s the type of league where you go into every game uncomfortable.”

Bonita (2-2), which began the season ranked second in the Southeast Division, has climbed back to No. 4 after dropping a pair of early games.

The Bearcats are leaning on a defense allowing 20 points per game and the offense is improving under sophomore quarterback Tanner Diebold, who threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns in his last outing. Bonita’s Garrett Horine, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound force in the secondary, is one of the most dynamic players in the league as evidenced by four touchdown catches last week.

“We had a few more seniors solidified in their spots at this time last year,” Bonita coach Eric Podley said. “But we’re getting better each game.”

Diamond Ranch brought the most championship game experience to the Hacienda League, having reached the Southeast Division title game in 2008 and 2009. The Panthers season uncharacteristically ended in the first round of the playoffs last season and their junior quarterback elected not to return to the team in order to focus on his baseball career. As usual, Diamond Ranch (1-3) isn’t carrying a shiny record into league play and is accordingly difficult to get a read on. The Panthers’ three losses are to teams with a combined 9-2 mark.

Diamond Bar (2-2) is hoping to get healthy in order to end a seven-year playoff drought with the help of the league’s most talented quarterback in 6-foot-4 senior Henry Omana, who has thrown for 752 yards and nine touchdowns.