Diamond Bar: After ranking Diamond Bar as highly as I have in the All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25, I was very interested in seeing just how the Brahmas are progressing under first-year coach Ryan Maine. Keep in mind that on Thursday, the Brahmas were the upper-division team being from the Southeast and throwing against three Mid-Valley teams. D-Bar did have the most raw talent there in terms of pure numbers. Anyway, having seen Bonita and now D-Bar, there isn’t much separating either team in terms of skill guys. However, I was disappointed in D-Bar’s lack of toughness. That’s something that Maine says he and his staff are working on. There was very little mean streak to these guys and that absolutely will not fly in the Hacienda, let alone the Southeast. More specifics in the part about D-Bar vs. Arroyo (see below). Speaking of Maine, I got to meet him for the first time. Didn’t realize he won two CIF rings as a QB at D-Bar in the late 90s-early 00s. He brings a lot of energy and passion and you can tell he’s pouring his heart into getting that program to succeed. It ain’t gonna be easy at 28-years-old and I hope that the D-Bar staff knows what they’re up against while sharing a league with Maggiore, Podley, Layton, Snyder and O’Shields. That is no joke. Just being on-par with those guys talent-wise isn’t always enough. I’m sure Maine and his staff will be up for the challenge.
Azusa: The Aztecs were a very pleasant surprise to me. As we all know, they lost a lot from last year’s 10-1 team that was the No. 1 seed entering the Mid-Valley playoffs. Well, they’ve pretty much reloaded. Quarterback Jake Martinez looked very good, as did his receivers Luis Nunez, Jesus Arteaga and James Figueroa. These three combined to make plays deep and Figueroa had a nice one-handed grab for a touchdown against Arroyo … well, I think he was out of bounds, but they called it a TD (I think). Great play, nonetheless. Also, running back Desmond Reed looks like he’s ready for a big season. On defense, the Aztecs look like they’re still trying to find their way assignment-wise. But I was very impressed with the bodies I saw. I didn’t catch his name, but they have a defensive end who looks like a smaller version of West Covina’s Justin Meaders. It is only passing league and I did not see any linemen, BUT I just can’t see there being another Montview League team with this much talent. And as for the division, outside of Monrovia, the Aztecs look like they fit right in again.
Arroyo: What else can you say about Knights QB/S Steven Rivera. He truly is special . Nothing new there. I’ve heard talk of the Knights being a one-man show this season, and admittedly I saw very little on Thursday to sit there and argue when people say that. But Arroyo’s one man is good enough to lead them to another big season. The rest of the Knights need some polish and I’m sure they’ll get that. Arroyo was without WR/CB Brandon Jauregui again, so all the woes I saw on one side of the field at corner worry me less.
Alhambra: Word is out that junior QB Joshua Mendoza has a booming arm. That’s pretty much true. As far as Mid-Valley QBs go, Mendoza will be one of the better ones and that should put Alhambra squarely in the mix in the Almont League. The Moors also have a pair of nice receivers in Demetrius Russell and Essien Frank. Frank has some good height and if he learns the position better, he could be very dangerous. If you’re expecting the Moors to take a step forward this year, I would not argue with you just going off what I saw on Thursday.
Arroyo vs. Diamond Bar: OK, as we all know, passing league sucks. It’s pretty much a machismo contest, which means little when we’re you’re mentioning skill players and machismo in the same sentence. BUT, every now and again you can get a window into a team’s character (at least at this point of the offseason) and anybody watching D-Bar and Arroyo got just that on Thursday. I was a little worried about Arroyo after I saw Azusa pretty much have their way with them. The Knights were lackluster and pretty disinterested. Coach Jim Singiser obviously sensed this and lit into his team as D-Bar was coming over for their game. On the first play of the game, as I’m talking to Maine and he’s telling me that linebacker Menandro Gelua is going to be a good one, Gelua promptly blows up a Arroyo receiver on the sideline. Well, the El Monte in Arroyo came out after that. It’s like a light switch went on and the Knights got the mean streak you want to see out of a football team. Rivera led two touchdown drives. Granted, the first one was an easy pass to a wide-open Hunter Duran after D-Bar’s corner got confused on a blitz. OK fine, but Rivera saw it right away and painted the Brahmas for a score. Later, Rivera leveled a D-Bar receiver and then picked off a pass in the end zone. My point is that when hit, Arroyo started hitting back and did so by hitting back HARDER and OFTEN. Meanwhile, D-Bar went in a shell. The Brahmas started dropping passes over the middle and clearly had no answer. Yes, the game got chippy. Maine picked up on what happened as you hopefully saw in the video and the great news is that when something like this happens in June, a team can learn from it and hopefully fix it. Diamond Bar MUST DO THAT if it’s to build on last year’s 6-4. Come this fall, the pads will be on and the blows won’t be coming from Arroyo, but rather West Covina, Diamond Ranch and Bonita. It was a very interesting moment. As for Arroyo. The Knights simply cannot afford to ever let their guard down. Not even against Mountain View. That’s just how it has to be and Singiser knows it. But convincing teenagers is another story. The Knights must always have a chip on their shoulder and play like they have something to prove. If that’s not there, even for a a few plays against a Rosemead or a San Dimas in the playoffs, then they just can’t trust that they’ll be able to make up for it on pure talent.
Garduno’s: On my way home, I stopped in at Garduno’s on Valley Blvd. If you don’t know Garduno’s, then you don’t know. Rosemead coach Matt Koffler called me just as I was in the drive-thru waiting for my grub and he started laughing when I told him where I was. Koffler knows. By the way, I love living in The ‘Dena, but it’s seriously lacking when it comes to good Mexican or Asian foods.