Football: Dietrich Riley’s got playoff success in mind

Above: Dietrich Riley has played running back, receiver, linebacker, safety and on special teams in his three seasons at St. Francis. (Photo by Ernesto Elizarraraz)

Great story last week by Gerry Gittelson, former staff writer at the L.A. Daily News. Riley talks about the playoff success that’s eluded him thus far …

By Gerry Gittelson, Special to the Daily News

An impact player on offense, defense and special teams, Dietrich Riley must be accounted for at all times.

While the senior from St. Francis High in La Caada has more than proved himself as a running back, receiver, linebacker, safety, kick returner, special-teams gunner, etc., Riley has enough good players around him this season to make a serious playoff run, and that would be something new for the four-year starter.


Riley has earned All-Mission League recognition since his freshman season, but St. Francis, once among the Southland’s most feared programs, has gone just 16-16in his first three seasons and has never won a playoff game – aletdown considering the Golden Knights had advanced to the section semifinals three times over the previous six years.

At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds with 4.5 speed and a 37-inch vertical jump, Riley is among California’s premier college prospects as a safety, with offers from USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Michigan, among others. As a junior, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and totaled 13 receptions, eight touchdowns, 39 tackles and an interception but could not do it alone.

“A lot of the teams we lost to, we had the game right at our fingertips but couldn’t finish,” Riley said. “I don’t think any player likes to go 6-5 or 4-6, but I feel like we’ve always had a shot.”

This year, especially.

With a solid returning quarterback in Justin Posthuma, a coterie of top receivers in Ian Hamilton, Austin Nieves and tight end Travis Talianko, a top offensive lineman in Patrick Carroll and a tough defense led by linebacker Chris Cabrera and defensive tackle David Chirikian, plus a dependable kicker in Ian Sternau.

“I definitely think we have the best team we’ve had in a long time,” Posthuma said.

St. Francis opened with a 40-0 victory over Arcadia, as Riley rushed for 138 yards in 13 carries, caught five passes for 110 yards and scored three touchdowns with five tackles on defense – all in just two quarters because of a 37-point halftime lead.

“When you always have to account for Dietrich, it opens things up for everyone else, so you can’t load up on him,” coach Jim Bonds said. “This year we have those other players. Then, when teams start worrying about the other players, we go back to Dietrich.”

Riley and Posthuma are best friends, and both performed against Arcadia, as Posthuma completed 9 of 14 for 192 yards and three touchdowns.

“We weren’t really challenged last week like I know we will be down the road,” Posthuma said. “We have one goal in mind, and that’s to win every game. Right now, our minds are on Crescenta Valley and nothing else. This is the most important week because it’s the week that’s right now.”

It’s early in the season, but considering the Western Division is wide open compared to other local divisions like the Northern, the Northwest or the City Section – where usually only two or three teams have a real chance to win the title – St.Francis has every right to have championship aspirations.

“Realistically, it can be done,” Riley said. “It’s all on us.”

Every successful journey needs a good starting point, and that’s where Riley comes in.

“I think in past years he was kind of scared to speak up because we always had senior leaders that were really vocal, but this year everyone definitely looks up to Dietrich,” Posthuma said. “He is definitely our vocal and emotional leader.”

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