Diamond Ranch High School football coach Roddy Layton has gained a reputation for his ridiculously difficult nonleague scheduling habits – as in Oaks Christian-three-years-in-a-row ridiculous. BUT after a 1-7 start last season, that philosophy landed Diamond Ranch in a CIF title game.
Even Layton might have a hard time topping Damien’s slate this year. The nonleague schedule coach Greg Gano inherited in his first year at Damien included not one, but two defending CIF champions.
Though Damien emerged from its nonleague murder’s row with a 1-4 record, anybody who takes a closer look knows the Spartans are vastly improved from their 3-7 team of last year. I promise the rest of the Sierra League has taken notice.
Outside of the playoffs, neither Bonita nor San Dimas hide the fact that their game with each other is the most important of the season. After Bonita won the Smudge Pot five out of six years, the cross-town rivalry game has gone to San Dimas the last two. Fresh off its first loss of the season, San Dimas, the No. 4 team in the CIF-SS Mid-Valley division, enters with a 3-1 record while Bonita, having won its first game last time out, is 1-3.
The singular devotion to this game is apparent on both sides. Each takes its bye week before hand, so as to allow more time for the hype to build. League play and the playoffs are obviously important but neither side of the rivalry veils the significance of this series that San Dimas leads 20-16-1.
“League still matters,” Bonita running back Deron Holmes said, “but this game is on top.”
“When you’re drawing up plays in the summer,” San Dimas head coach Bill Zernickow said, “you think of the Bearcats first.”
Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar joked that he used to refer to nonleague games as practice games. With the Fox Prime Ticket cameras encircling the field tonight, Farrar allowed “they don’t feel like practice games anymore.”
When defending CIF champions Rancho Cucamonga (3-0) and Covina Charter Oak (3-0) clash tonight, it could have state-championship implications. Though neither of these teams, who tied 14-14 last season on the way to identical 13-0-1 records, is proclaiming it’ll march to consecutive CIF titles, the significance of tonight isn’t lost on either side.
“It may be just another nonleague game but it feels more like a CIF championship game,” Rancho Cucamonga coach Nick Baiz said. “I don’t know if it’s because its on TV or its two defending CIF champions, but it feels big.”