West Covina at height of its power in Hacienda

Two, as in two-time defending CIF-SS Southeast Division champion, isn’t the most memorable number from the West Covina High School football team’s 2011 season. Eighty-four, the number of points it dropped on Whittier La Serna in a 63-point victory in the title game, is such a shocking figure it may even overshadow the feat it achieved.

Riding an unrivaled high, West Covina enters the 2012 season as the unquestioned team to beat in the Hacienda League, which has advanced at least one team to the CIF-SS championship game each of the last four seasons.

“It’s hard to keep replacing players every year,” Diamond Ranch coach Roddy Layton said. “But West Covina has found a way to do it.”

Diamond Ranch, which finished second to undefeated West Covina last season, has played the league champions with a title on the line each of the last two years. West Covina’s average margin of victory in the two contests was 29.5 points.

Bonita, the 2010 second-place finisher to West Covina in more ways than one, has provided the champs by far their closest game with a Hacienda League foe the last two seasons. After losing by 33 in the regular season, Bonita was a late-game dropped interception away from toppling West Covina in the 2010 CIF-SS title game, an eventual 37-33 loss.

There could be plenty of parity below West Covina in a seven-team league that had its automatic playoff berths reduced from four to three, particularly if a young Diamond Bar team continues to improve, history indicates Diamond Ranch and Bonita appear to be the two most likely teams to challenge the reigning champions.

“They haven’t had anybody challenge them in a long time,” Bonita head coach Adrian Medrano said. “But somebody’s got to challenge them at some point.”

Diamond Ranch will have the best chance to match West Covina’s size up front with offensive and defensive lines led by 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior Kammy Delp. Flanked by 6-3, 245-pound Carl Bryan, 6-4, 240-pound Josh Buchholz and 6-0, 250-pound Noah Garcia, Diamond Ranch figures to have a solid protection for a diverse group of skill players.

After three consecutive seasons of injury costing the player that was his leading rusher, receiver and scorer significant time, Layton doesn’t plan to rely heavily on any one person. Even quarterback could be a platoon attack with junior Xavier Beltran and senior Pablo Unzueta.

Bonita doesn’t plan to rotate quarterbacks this season, rather, hand the reins to junior Tanner Diebold after a promising sophomore campaign. The 6-1, 175-pound quarterback’s chemistry was impressive during the summer passing league circuit with his top two targets, receiver Victor Magallanes and Reggie Turner, who will play both running back and slot receiver.

After compiling a 9-3 league record the last two seasons combined, Bonita returns just seven total starters and begins its first year under head coach Medrano. After a 12-year run for Eric Podley, the former head coach desired a reduced role but remains the offensive coordinator while former assistant Medrano replaces him.

“We’re going to tweak a few things but our system will stay the same,” Medrano said. “We don’t have anybody running a 4.4 40 or benching 300 pounds, so we’re going to have to be efficient. We’re hoping to be in the hunt for a league title and the playoffs.”

After finishing the last two seasons one win out of the playoffs, Diamond Bar is hoping to break into the top tier of the league after two years of steady improvement under head coach Ryan Maine, a former quarterback for the Brahmas.

A big impact is expected from two sophomore receivers who transferred from Long Beach Poly last season, rapper Snoop Dogg’s son, Cordell Broadus, and his cousin, Kanya Bell. Broadus, already 6-2 and 185 pounds, received a scholarship offer from UCLA during the summer.

With Broadus and Bell on the outside and both primary running backs returning, the skill positions are solid at the least for the winner of a quarterback duel between sophomore Tyler Peterson and junior Nolan Luzzi.

The largest questions for Diamond Bar address a defense that allowed 31 points per game in league play last season, primarily due to a lack of run-stopping ability. A defense returning five starters is strong enough in the secondary that the Brahmas should be able to put more players in the box when necessary.

“West Covina is the giant, but aside from that I think the rest of the league is pretty even,” Maine said. “There aren’t any games I feel we’re going to get blown out and there aren’t any where we’re going to blow anybody out.”

BONITA
Coach: Adrian Medrano
Year, record at school: First year
2011 record: 6-5 (4-2)
Last playoff berth: 2011, lost 39-13 to Arcadia in CIF-SS Southeast Division first round.
Key returnees: Reggie Turner, RB, 5-9, 185, Sr.; Tanner Diebold, QB, 6-1, 165, Jr.; D.J. Theard, OL/DL, 6-3, 270, Sr.; Victor Magallanes, WR/DB, 6-1, 170, Sr.; Brandt Davis, K, 5-10, 160, Sr.
Keys to success: The Bearcats will need to adapt to the new leadership of first-year head coach Adrian Medrano, after Eric Podley took a reduced role as offensive coordinator after 12 years as the head coach. Offensively Bonita appears to have ample firepower to fule it’s pass-heavy offense, but the Bearcats’ pass defense will need to find some new playmakers to compliment a talented defensive front.

DIAMOND BAR
Coach: Ryan Maine
Year, record at school: Second, 10-10
2011 record: 4-6 (2-4)
Last playoff berth: 2003, def. Rancho Cucamonga 29-20; lost to Mission Viejo 52-18 in CIF-SS Division II quarterfinals.
Key Returnees: Cordell Broadus, WR, 6-2, 185, So.; Joey Fontana, OL/DL, 6-3, 295, Sr.; Kanya Bell, WR/DB, 6-0, 165, So.; Matt Carillo, TE/LB, 6-1, 195, Sr.; Tyler Brown, RB, 5-7, 170, Jr.; Josh Peyton, LB, 6-0, 185, Sr.
Keys to success: The Brahmas gain a heavy dose of young athleticism with the emergence of receivers Cordell Broadus, rapper Snoop Dogg’s son, and his cousin Kanya Bell. Bell will also aid a secondary that will need to play some man-to-man coverage in order to assist the front seven with run support, the team’s most obvious area of need last season.

DIAMOND RANCH
Coach: Roddy Layton
Year, record at school: Seventh, 32-40
2010 record: 6-6 (4-2)
Last playoff berth: 2011, def. Bellflower 35-33, lost 48-0 to Padasena Muir CIF-SS Southeast Division quarterfinals.
Key returnees: Kammy Delp, OL/DL, 6-4, 300, Jr.; William Bryan, RB/DB, 5-11, 170, Jr.; Carl Bryan, OL/DL, 6-3, 245, Jr.; Xavier Beltran, QB, 6-0, 175, Jr.; Matthew Preston, LB, 6-2, 195, Jr.; Marquis Wimberly, WR/DB, 6-1, 185, Jr.
Keys to success: Diamond Ranch is hoping some playmakers from a bevy of skill players will emerge. After relying on one player to carry much of the offensive load the last three seasons, the Panthers hope spreading the weath on offense this year will help make them less vulnerable to inevitable injuries.