After a couple of down years for Ayala, the city rivalry will be renewed tonight when the resurgent Bulldogs take on a Chino Hills program that is seemingly always in the Sierra League championship mix.
Curious timing: Entering league play just two weeks ago, Chino Hills (3-2-1, 0-1) was considered one of the favorites while Ayala (5-1, 1-0) had demonstrated measurable improvement but was still dealing with some uncertainty.
One game into league play their situations are considerably different.
Chino Hills is coming off a loss to defending league champ Covina Charter Oak by a larger than expected margin of 41-13. The Huskies, who lost a 38-7 matchup to Charter Oak last season that determined the league championship, now find themselves facing an uphill battle.
Ayala, meanwhile, only added legitimacy to its 4-1 start to the season with a 49-31 win last week over a Damien team that made the playoffs a year ago. Now a clearly improved Bulldogs team will take on Chino Hills with most of the pressure on the Huskies.
Air vs. ground: Each of these teams feature dynamic offensive weapons. Chino Hills prefers the aerial route via quarterback Matt Simko, who is averaging 282 yards per game and already has 14 touchdowns opposite just four interceptions.
Simko has a pair of dynamic receivers in Boise State-bound Jack Austin and Joseph Lara, who already has 582 yards on the season.
Ayala’s most dangerous threat is Jordan Robinson, who led the team in rushing and receiving last season. The senior has been banged up this year, but is averaging 121 yards on the ground and has 10 total touchdowns in five games.
“I said last year I thought Jordan Robinson was the most talented player in the league,” Chino Hills coach Derek Bub said. “I think he’s the most talented again this year. We’re going to have our hands full.”
Robinson has been flanked this season by senior Dane Cruikshank, who had last week alone had three interceptions on defense and three touchdowns on offense, two of which went for over 70 yards.
Rivalry history: Before Ayala finished last in the Sierra League in 2010 and fifth in 2011, the two Chino Hills schools had several matchups that were as meaningful as they were dramatic.
One season after going 0-10, Ayala defeated Chino Hills, 19-10, in 2007 on its way to second place in league.
In 2008 Ayala claimed an 18-17 victory in the rivalry on a late touchdown and two-point conversion that pulled it even with Chino Hills for a shared league title.
Chino Hills’ 14-7 victory over the Bulldogs in 2009 awarded the Huskies a co-league championship and knocked Ayala out of the playoffs.
“It’s been a great rivalry for the city,” Bub said. “It’s great for both schools and we’re excited to see what happens this year.”