Ayala to start freshman quarterback in Battle of the Bone

The Ayala football team hasn’t beaten crosstown rival Chino Hills since 2009 and last year it was ugly – 31-0. The Huskies lead the young series 9-3.

There are new coaches on each side with Chris Stevens now heading Chino Hills and A.J. Gracia in charge at Ayala.

The quarterbacks will be a compelling storyline as Chino Hills will start Austin Zavala, a transfer from Ayala.

Meanwhile Ayala will be starting a freshman – Cole McCain, son of assistant coach Matt McCain. Gracia said it was a tough battle with McCain pushed by junior James Linn but in the end he went with the youngster.

“It was a battle all the way and they competed for it,” Gracia said.  “Cole just kind of separated himself in the end.”

Linn is still going to be a factor though, starting at safety.

Here’s a rundown of the scores in the series:

2015 – Chino Hills 31, Ayala 0
2014 – Did not play
2013 – Chino Hills 52, Ayala 28
2012 – Chino Hills 49, Ayala 34
2011 – Chino Hills 40, Ayala 17
2010 – Chino Hills 36, Ayala 8
2009 – Chino Hills 14, Ayala 7
2008 – Ayala 18, Chino Hills 17
2007 – Ayala 19, Chino Hills 10
2006 – Chino Hills 42, Ayala 21
2005 – Chino Hills 20, Ayala 7
2004 – Chino Hills 21, Ayala 16
2003 – Ayala 21, Chino Hills 17

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Ayala football team looks to get back on track under new leader


The Ayala football team is one of the many in the Inland Valley under a new leader. A.J. Gracia has taken over and is hoping to lead a resurgence of a program that most agree underachieved last year in going just 3-7.

It won’t be easy. The competition is pretty stiff in the Palomares League and the Bulldogs open the season on Aug. 26 with a non-league game against local rival Chino Hills which has owned them in recent years.

But the new leader is optimistic.

“There is talent here,” he said. “Everyone has been working hard and they have bought in with what we’re trying to do and that’s a good place to start.”

Like all new coaches who weren’t on the staff previously Gracia says every player comes in with a clean slate with him. No returning player is guaranteed a starting spot. Those have to be earned. That competition for playing time can only help.

One of the battles is at quarterback where freshman Cole McCain and junior James Linn are candidates for the starting spot. Linn saw some playing time last year as a back-up to the graduate Michael Morales.

The line will be led by junior center Justin Salazar and junior guard-tackle Addison Shackelford, both of whom saw considerable action last year.  Senior tackle Justin Winans, out last year with a knee injury, and junior tackle Brian McMillan will also be counted on.

Ayala also graduated the running back who was the workhorse of the offense the last three years in Jordan Charles. Several players are vying for time there including junior brothers Mason and Max Hura and Makaio Provoost, also a junior.

Gracia expects his skill position players and his defensive secondary to be the strong points of his team.

“We have some good athletes and we have some depth,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can contribute.”

Among those in that secondary are senior Emmanuel Flowers, perhaps the best player on the squad. Seniors Zach Brozick and Moses Sanchez and juniors Joshua Pryor and Dominic Gaetano should be big contributors there as well.

Gracia says the biggest question marks are the defensive line and linebacking core because of the number of players graduated. Among those the rookie coach is looking for to step are senior linebackers Josh Elliott and Parker Wallace

Many of the same players who will see time on offense will do so on defense as well with Provoost and Hura among those.

Senior Brian Papazian, who handles all the kicking duties, is also back.

Gracia has brought in some experienced assistants to help him. Matt McCain and Rick Martin will head the defensive staff while Manny Saiz will serve as offensive coordinator.

Gracia, who came to the school from Hillcrest, says he’ll judge the season on how his players progress, not necessarily on how many games it wins since the first year is usually a transition one.  He had to finish out the year at his former school before moving over to Ayala full-time which slowed the process.

“It’s really about going out there and working hard and hopefully it all pays off,” he said. “We’re just really looking forward to being competitive and then see what happens.”



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