New stadiums could be shot in the arm for Pomona Unified football programs …


Roddy Layton has been involved with the Pomona Unified School District nearly all of his life.

First as a student from kindergarten until his days as a football standout at Ganesha High School, and now as the varsity football head coach at Diamond Ranch where he’s taught for the past 18 years.

So it’s understandable the pride that’s building in Layton as the district nears completion of a project that will see new on-campus football stadiums featuring AstroTurf fields open this fall at Diamond Ranch, Pomona and Garey high schools. Ganesha, which was used for years to host games for other schools in the district, will have its new playing surface in time for next season.

“It’s going to do a lot of things for Pomona,” Layton said. “Before, if a student wanted to go to a game after school, they’d have to find a ride to the stadium at Ganesha. Now they can just stay on campus. There’s a sense now of ‘this is ours’.”

Thanks to a voter-approved bond measure that passed in 2008, Pomona Unified has been able to embark on a much-needed campaign of upgrading some athletic facilities at its high schools.

At Diamond Ranch, players were forced to practice on what Layton called “green weed” instead of grass and never got a chance to play on a field with chalked lines and hash marks until their first game of the season.

Despite the hardships, Diamond Ranch has been one of the area’s top football programs under Layton, who is entering eighth season as head coach. With Layton at the helm, the Panthers have played in two CIF championship games and have sent numerous players on to play college football.

Other schools in the district haven’t been so lucky. Both Ganesha and Garey have fallen hard times and have been given relief by CIF in terms of league and division alignment numerous times.

Pomona had some success in the early-2000s, but that went away thanks to a revolving door of head coaches. Now, a lot of the area’s top talent leaves the district to play at other high schools
and coaches sticking around as long as Layton has is unheard of.

“I think it helps all the schools and it will help the youth football programs,” Layton said. “Hopefully it will also help promote youth football in the city. All the schools are on the right track to improving.”

Having to board a bus to play its home games was something that Layton didn’t like, but never made an issue of for fear his players would let it get to them.

“I never put it out there because I didn’t want it to be a mental issue, but now that we have our own home field, I will make it an issue,” Layton said. “We used to tell the players that UCLA’s home field was at the Rose Bowl and they’re nowhere near there.

“We’ve always had good crowds at our game, but for Pomona and Garey, to be playing at home, that should mean more people come out to watch games.”

Diamond Ranch’s first home game in its new stadium will be on Sept. 6 against El Rancho. The school has intentionally scheduled its lower-level teams to play on the road for their first two games so that the varsity team will be the first to play in the new stadium.

Garey will host Pomona on Aug. 30 in what should be a special event for the city. Pomona doesn’t play on its new field until Sept. 13 against Bloomington.