The fact that the Ayala High School football team is already two thirds of the way to last year’s win total may not do justice to the measure of its improvement. The fact that the word “championship” can be mentioned in the same sentence with the Bulldogs may be a more accurate reflection.
Ayala’s 16-15 win over two-time defending CIF champion Monrovia on Friday night gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 record and added much perspective to a season-opening 29-point blowout of Diamond Bar. Scoring a victory over the CIF-SS Mid-Valley champs is the best indication in three years that Ayala is returning to the form that had it regularly contending for the Sierra League title until beginning to slip three years ago.
“To beat a team of that caliber definitely shows that we have a talented team that can compete with that caliber of opponent,” Ayala coach Randy Reams said. “I mean, back to back CIF champs, it doesn’t get much tougher than that.”
Reams, in his second year at the helm, doesn’t believe his team was too far off last season, a feeling supported by the fact that four of Ayala’s seven losses last season came by five points or less.
Friday night’s one-point win came courtesy of an errant extra point by Monrovia with about nine minutes left in the game. Of course, the attempt was 15 yards longer than normal thanks to a celebration penalty after Monrovia had erased all but one point of a 16-3 halftime deficit. After a botched snap cost Monrovia an extra point on its first touchdown of the game, Reams decided to accept the celebration penalty on the extra point as opposed to the kickoff.
Despite the presence of preseason All-Valley running back Jordan Robinson, who had 207 yards on the ground in Ayala’s season-opening win and over 100 yards from scrimmage Friday, Reams is the most proud of how his defense is evolving. It is anchored by a group of seniors who went 10-0 on the freshman team and won the league championship as sophomores on the junior varsity.
“All summer everybody just wanted to talk about Ayala’s offense, Ayala’s offense,” Reams said. “Our defense is right there with the offense. Our defense was the biggest reason we won that game (Friday).”
The Bulldogs held Monrovia under 16 points for just the second time in Monrovia’s last 28 games.
For those who aren’t ready to drink the Ayala Kool-aid, the Bulldogs have plenty of tests in front of them. This week Ayala travels to Las Vegas to play a Cheyenne team that is ranked 13th in Nevada. After that a pair of games with Glendora and Kaiser await before Sierra League play begins with three games against last year’s three playoff teams, Damien, Chino Hills and Covina Charter Oak.
“It’s a little too early to talk about league,” Reams said. “We’ve got a lot of tough games between now and then.”