By Aram Tolegian
There’s something contagious about new Diamond Bar High School football coach Ryan Maine. To spend a few minutes with him is to find yourself about ready to strap on pads and a helmet and hit someone in the name of Brahma football.
And that’s just if you’re a normal person. What about the Brahmas’ actual football team? Well, let’s just say they’re fired up beyond belief for the upcoming season and it’s got everything to do with Maine.
“Coach Maine brings such energy and enthusiasm that when you wake up in the morning you can’t wait to go work out for him,” Diamond Bar senior running back Jamaal Clayton said. “He’s probably going to be the best coach at this school in a long time.”
And that’s exactly what the Brahams’ struggling football program needs.
Diamond Bar has fallen from being one of the top teams in the area in the late 1990s to an afterthought on the current area scene.
If anybody remembers Diamond Bar’s glory days, it’s Maine. He won CIF championships at the school as a quarterback in 1998 and ’99. Maine was a sophomore back-up on the ’98 team, but was the starting quarterback in ’99.
“When I first came back, I noticed kids in our district were going to Chino Hills, Diamond Ranch, Damien and Bishop Amat,’ Maine said. “What I’ve noticed is that with schools like Diamond Ranch and Chino Hills coming in, the athletes here have diminished a little bit.
“When I played here, it was Diamond Bar getting Ganesha kids who didn’t want to go there or Ayala kids. My senior year, at spring practice we had 92 players on varsity. This year for spring practice we had 54.”
Winning is the cure-all and Maine knows it. But he’s taking baby steps for his team to get there. It can be something as minor as winning the SGV Shootout passing tournament in July, but Maine is using any bit of confidence-boosting news to the fullest.
“To the outside world, for the public and community, it’s about winning and getting publicity for it,” Maine said. “But personally, I’m trying to build these kids into being successful in life and have fun doing it.”
The team Maine inherits has a good chance to end Diamond Bar’s postseason drought. The Brahmas haven’t been to the playoffs since 2003, but that could change thanks to a loaded offense led by quarterback Henry Omana, receiver George Katrib and Clayton.
Although the Brahmas figure to have little trouble scoring, there are major concerns about a defense that allowed 31.8 points per game. Diamond Bar has had major trouble at the line of scrimmage in recent years, which is part of the reason why CIF dropped the school out of the Sierra League and into the Hacienda League and Southeast Division.
In terms of won-loss record, the move paid off as Diamond Bar went 6-4 overall last year. But because the Brahmas weren’t close in losses to West Covina, Bonita, Diamond Ranch and arch-rival Walnut, Diamond Bar was left out of the dance.
Maine, who played in college at Sacramento State and University of San Diego, came back to his alma mater to teach and coach baseball after a brief career in sales. He was offensive coordinator under previous head coach John Martin from 2007 until this past offseason when he was named head coach.
For Maine, turning around the program is as much about changing the psychology of the players as it is changing their physical attributes.
Maine has transformed the team room from the mess it was last year to something that resembles a college locker room.
Diamond Bar’s CIF championship banners hang in there to remind players what’s possible.
Nutrition has also become a part of the process. Maine has arranged for the players to be served protein drinks after workouts and has encouraged them to bring their own lunches from home during school days. Whether the strategy will pay off in the trenches is one thing, but it should be noted that last year Diamond Bar had four players run under a 5-second-flat, 40-yard sprint. This year that number is 25.
Clearly, the Brahmas are feeding off their enthusiastic 28-year-old coach. And that’s because Maine’s will to win has spread like wild fire and his players don’t want all the excitement and effort to be wasted on another ho-hum season.
“Last night, I fell asleep at 11p.m. and woke up at 4 a.m.,” Maine said. “I will call the players at 9 at night just to see how they’re doing. My mind just doesn’t stop thinking. I’ve always been competitive. It’s my passion.
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