Nogales football job open …

The Nogales High School varsity football head coach job is now open after it was announced that Bruce Alley will stay in his role as athletic director and not coach football.

Alley took over the football program after former head coach Sebastian Hernandez just prior to the 2013 season.

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Is Central Division placement the beginning of the end for the Monrovia Football Factory?

Some of the luster was already off the Monrovia High School football program when the CIF-Southern Section proposed the Wildcats, along with the Rio Hondo League, be moved to the Central Division.

Monrovia had just come off a season in which it was walloped by St. Francis in the area’s biggest nonleague game of the season and later lost in the semifinals of the Mid-Valley Division playoffs despite being prohibitive favorites to win their fourth consecutive division title.

Then came word that head coach Ryan Maddox, who had guided the program to one of the most successful runs in area history, resigned to focus on other career goals. Maddox’s departure led to a longer-than-expected job search that saw some very high-profile local coaches say “thanks but no thanks” to being the next head coach.

In the end, Monrovia landed Chris Stevens, formerly of Ontario Christian, to lead the program into arguably the biggest transition period in school history.

The above mentioned happenings aren’t exactly the perfect set up for a program that’s about to see a boost in playoff competition to steep that it could make them the laughing stock of the Valley.

If those words sound harsh, then I urge you to please understand the following point. It’s one thing to go 4-6 and miss the playoffs. When that happens, people may chuckle and forget all about it a few minutes later. That isn’t what will happen to Monrovia. Quite the opposite, actually.

This fall, Monrovia will likely trample the Rio Hondo League yet again. With any success in the nonleague, the Wildcats figure to have a good enough record to go into the postseason as a top-four seed in the Central Division playoffs.

It’s at that the point the Valley’s vast football fan base will reach a crescendo of doubt as it pertains to the Wildcats’ validity at the Central Division level. The prevailing notion will be that Monrovia is about to get exposed the minute it steps on the field against, say, a top-flight team from Hacienda or Palomares leagues.

Monrovia won’t need to win the Central to stave off embarrassment, but it has to avoid a first-round exit. But is the program really at a level where even that’s possible?

This fall’s Monrovia team will have way more question marks than any of the past five editions. Who’s the quarterback? Who’s the star running back? Those positions were never really in doubt in recent years. But they are now.

There’s still plenty of talent, especially in the outside skill positions, at Monrovia. The Wildcats annually have some of the fastest players around. The Wildcats also have excellent size along both lines, albeit young. But you’re not just going to run by anybody in Charter Oak’s secondary and you’re not just going to simply push around Glendora or West Covina.

Monrovia got by on sheer talent and Maddox’s cool-under-pressure leadership in the Mid-Valley Division. It’s going to take more than talent, though, when the guy across from you in the Central Division is just as fast or big, or both.

And Maddox isn’t around anymore to masterfully handle all the different personalities and strange situations that Monrovia has had in the recent past.

Monrovia is a powerhouse in flux. New coach. New quarterback. New running back. New division. Meanwhile, the Valley is an unforgiving place that’s hard to impress. Same doubts. Same questions. Same skepticism.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of a football power?

Or is Monrovia about to make CIF’s tough assignment look easy?

No matter how you answer either question, one thing is for certain — the Wildcats better use the next three months wisely because there’s plenty of cynics lying in wait. Some of them wear helmets and shoulders, and some do not.

DENIED: Rio Hondo League loses appeal to not move to Central Division …

At least the Rio Hondo League tried.

In what seemed like a real long shot move Wednesday morning, the league consisting of Blair, La Canada, Monrovia, San Marino, South Pasadena and Temple City, appealed the CIF-Southern Section’s proposed placement of the league in the Central Division on grounds that it didn’t make sense based on both geography or competitive equity.

The verdict? The nine-member Southern Section Playoff Groupings Appeals Committee voted 7-0-2 to deny the appeal and unless the league wants to try its hand with another appeal at the Southern Section Council level, area fans can expect to see the Rio Hondo League in the Central Division beginning this fall.

“I think it’s pretty tough to get an appeal approved,” Monrovia athletic director Randy Bell said following Wednesday’s decision. “It’s just the nature of the beast. They put a lot of work into figuring out what they’re doing. It’s kind of a two-pronged thing when you make your appeal.

“You have to give your data that you feel makes your appeal valid and you also have to come up with an alternative solution. The complexity of that task is just ridiculous. To come up with a solution that doesn’t knock over a bunch of dominoes and effect a bunch of others schools is really difficult.”

In addition to the Rio Hondo League, the Central Division will consist of the Hacienda, Mt. Baldy, Palomares and Sunkist leagues. Much of the reason why the entire Rio Hondo League got bumped up is because of Monrovia’s domination of the Mid-Valley Division.

The Wildcats won three consecutive Mid-Valley Division championships between 2010-12. And with San Marino having some recent success, the league looked ripe for a boost in playoff competition. Of course, had the league decided to move Monrovia out during the last re-leaguing cycle, all of this might have been avoided.

“If we’re talking hypothetically, if Monrovia was no longer in the Rio Hondo League, I think the Rio Hondo League would still be in the Mid-Valley Division,” Bell said. “But that being said, re-leaguing is a bigger deal especially for the schools and the league as a whole. And I struggle to agree with folks who say football should drive re-leaguing.

“The Rio Hondo League’s attitude is not that Monrovia needs to go. Monrovia has been the dominant team in football, but it’s South Pas in volleyball and San Marino and La Canada in swimming. You have to take everything into account.”

Bell said the Rio Hondo League’s enrollment argument centered around the fact that the Rio Hondo League’s average enrollment is 1,400 students compared to the smallest average of the other four teams in the division being 2,200.

The league also submitted average roster size for the past two years, and the Rio Hondo League average was 41 whereas the other leagues were in the 50s and 60s, according to Bell.

As for competitive equity, the Rio Hondo League argued that its 30-32 overall record against the rest of the Mid-Valley Division over the past four years shows it’s already in the right division. And if one subtracts Monrovia’s success from those numbers, the rest of the league has actually underwhelmed.

The Rio Hondo League’s alternative proposal was to move the Alpha League, now called the Gold Coast League, into the Central Division instead.

“We felt we had a pretty good enrollment and competitive equity argument, but really what CIF is looking at is the competitive equity and the top of the Rio Hondo League for the past several years has been really competitive,” Bell said. “It’s hard to say what our next move will be. I know CIF kinda hopes leagues will give it a couple years and let it play out. And if they need to make a change, they’ll make a change. We completely understand the difficulty of their job as well.”

Kudos to CIF for outstanding job on football playoff grouping proposals …

Here’s something you don’t say very often: CIF hit it out of the park.

It’s been a few days since the CIF-Southern Section office made public its playoff grouping proposals for football. And in what may come as a shock to many, they nailed it.

By now, everybody has had a chance to pour over the proposed divisions which will go into effect this fall. Try as you might, it’s hard to come up with any disagreements.

First, let’s start with the local landscape. The big question going into this cycle of grouping proposals was where would CIF place the newly formed Palomares League? In what amounts to a dream situation for local fans, the Palomares will be in the Central Division along with the Hacienda League, Rio Hondo League, Sunkist League and Mt. Baldy League.

This proposal means get ready for potential postseason matchups like Los Altos vs. South Hills … or West Covina vs. Glendora … or Charter Oak vs. Monrovia. About Monrovia. That brings us to the only bit of controversy that’s come from the proposals.

The Rio Hondo League is set to appeal its placement in the Central Division. Why? Because at its core the rest of the league knows it’s nowhere near capable of playing against the rest of the teams in the proposed Central Division.

To the Rio Hondo League, I say tough toenails. You had the chance to do something about your Monrovia problem last year. The Wildcats tower over the league in football and were good enough in several other sports to have withstood a move to a different league, like, say, the Pacific League.

Instead, the Rio Hondo League, which is a broken league on so many levels thanks to Monrovia’s football dominance and Blair’s inability to have a stable athletics program, chose to leave things the same.

By way of the Rio Hondo League’s inaction last year when re-leaguing was done, the powers that be left the entire league vulnerable to exactly what happened — everybody getting bumped up on account of one team.

The Southeast Division got an unexpected twist when CIF proposed to move the Mission League in and significantly boost the championship chances of teams like St. Francis and Cathedral. But more than just improving the chances of already established football programs, being in the Southeast Division also gives other Mission League teams like St. Paul a chance regroup and start working its way back to prominence.

It won’t be easy for the Mission League, though. The Suburban League, with La Mirada and Norwalk, is no pushover. The Del Rio League has a burgeoning powerhouse in La Serna. The San Gabriel Valley League is chalk full of teams that have plenty of talent at their disposal. And then there’s the Pacific League where Muir is on its way back and Burbank figures to a tough out again this fall.

On the surface, it appears that San Dimas is about to become the next version of Monrovia — a well-oiled program that really has only one or two legitimate threats to its chances of winning multiple CIF championships.

The Saints figure to be annual favorites in the new-look Mid-Valley Division, and that’s a good thing. San Dimas showed last year in its winless nonleague that it’s not ready to hang in something like the Central Division. But the Saints are not infallible either. See 2011′s semifinals loss to San Gabriel.

More than giving San Dimas an opportunity to take the next step as an area power, the new-look Mid-Valley Division, by getting Monrovia out of the picture, opens the door for true neighborhood football programs like Arroyo or Rosemead or Montebello to enjoy a prolonged postseason run more often.

CIF is under no obligation to make things perfect for a particular area in terms of potential local matchups that will drum up interest from fans and lead to big crowds. Of course, doing so only helps their bottom line.

The main goal should be to create divisions where you don’t already know the winner in August and just about every team that finishes in the top three in its league feels as though it has a realistic chance at a deep run.

That’s exactly what has happened here and for it this sportswriter is prepared to give CIF the rare pat on the back.

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Former Diamond Ranch assistant coach says Roddy Layton, Panthers coaching staff, scouted using Diamond Bar’s Hudl account …

Former Diamond Ranch High School assistant football coach Matt Johnson says that he, along with former Panthers head coach Roddy Layton and other members of the coaching staff, accessed rival Diamond Bar’s Hudl.com account in order to gain an advantage before last fall’s rivalry game.

Johnson, a 2008 graduate of Diamond Ranch and captain on the Panthers’ ’07 team, said Layton and his staff obtained Diamond Bar’s Hudl log-in information from a former Brahmas player who transferred to Diamond Ranch last fall and used it to scout the week leading up to a 34-20 win on Oct. 18, 2013.

“We were actually watching their practices (on Hudl),” Johnson said. “We were watching what they were planning on doing to us. Roddy said we can’t tell anybody. He said let’s just watch it and see what happens. I was there. I’m not trying to spare myself. I was in there.”

Layton resigned last Friday, a move that he defended by saying it had been in the works for a while. Meanwhile, the Pomona Unified School District is conducting an investigation into Johnson’s allegations, which came to light three weeks ago when Diamond Bar sent a letter to Diamond Ranch and later to the CIF-Southern Section office.

Johnson, who is now at Diamond Bar and is in the process of becoming an assistant coach on the Brahmas varsity coaching staff, came forward with the information to former Diamond Bar head coach Ryan Maine and athletic director Kurt Davies.

Hudl.com has become a popular resource for coaches who can store game video, practice video and notes used for game preparation.

Diamond Ranch won the game played on Oct. 18, 2013 by a score of 34-20. The night was marred by a brawl that led to the suspensions of players from both teams in following weeks. Diamond Ranch later won the Hacienda League with a 6-0 record. Diamond Bar forfeited its following game against Rowland due to a lack of eligible players.

A copy of the letter sent by Diamond Bar to CIF and Diamond Ranch includes a report from Hudl.com that shows a significant spike in user activity for a certain log-in during the week of the game.

Layton has denied ever logging into Diamond Bar’s Hudl account, but Johnson tells a much different story. Johnson said that during the week of the game he sat in Layton’s classroom along with the then head coach and other members of the staff while the group watched video Diamond Bar uploaded of that week’s practices.

“It changed the whole game,” Johnson said. “With the Hudl film, we knew — off of alignments, or where they were standing, or the signals he was giving — what was coming.

“It was like the third play after halftime and we threw a 60-yard bomb to score. All that stuff was called specifically because we knew their tendencies. I wasn’t a play caller, but we called specific plays in specific times because we knew what they were trying to do.

“When they were backed up on the goal line, we saw in practice what they were going to run. So what do we do? We bring the house and their quarterback gets hit, drops the ball and we score a touchdown.”

When told about Johnson’s accusations on Thursday, Layton said they stem from Johnson not getting an on-campus job at Diamond Ranch and not being made the varsity football team’s linebackers coach.

One thing Layton and Johnson can agree on was that Layton’s resignation, which came awfully late in the offseason, was planned long ago. Diamond Ranch was toward the end of spring practice when Layton stepped down and pulled out of a scheduled appearance in last week’s Charter Oak Spring Passing Showcase Tournament.

Prior to Layton’s resignation, Johnson informed his former coach that he was leaving to take a coaching position at Diamond Bar. That’s when Johnson, a recipient of two Purple Hearts for combat injuries he suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the United States Army, started receiving what he described as threatening text messages from Diamond Ranch coaching staff members.

“The threats ranged from kicking my ass to coming to my house,” Johnson said. “My phone records show that at like 2 in the morning, my phone goes crazy with text messages. Once all the threats started and everyone decided to show me their true colors, that’s when I decided to roll on people.

“I’ve kept all the text messages because I just want to have something so if that something ever happened to me, I could say ‘look this is pre-meditated. This is not just a reaction’. I’m not afraid of a fight. I’m a military veteran. But it’s just not worth it to me.”

Layton said he’s heard the same complaint from Johnson, but could not confirm the existence of any such text messages.

Johnson played fullback and linebacker for Layton in 2007, a season that ironically ended in controversy when the Panthers who were 7-3 on the field saw their record turned to 2-8 because of forfeited victories due to an ineligible player.

Following his military career, Johnson returned to the area to pursue a career in coaching. Johnson coached at Diamond Ranch last season at the junior varsity level and was the varsity special teams coach.

After an article earlier this week brought Diamond Bar’s allegations to light, Johnson said Layton called him and the two spoke for two hours. It’s a conversation Layton admits took place.

“He called me two nights ago when all these articles started popping up and asked ‘What did I do to you?’” Johnson said. “We talked for two hours. I told him this is what you did to me, this is what your coaching staff did to me. I planned on leaving 100 percent, no problem, and then you wanted to dig and dig and push.

“If I’d have said I was going to any other school but Diamond Bar, this wouldn’t be a problem. It’s not my agenda to go and make anyone look terrible. Layton did resign. He wasn’t forced out, but all this other stuff is still true, too.”

FOOTBALL PLAYOFF GROUPING PROPOSALS: Rio Hondo League to appeal its proposed placement in the Central Division …

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The landscape of the CIF-Southern Section football playoffs are about to get a major face lift.

The Southern Section office released its playoff grouping proposals for 2014-16 on Tuesday morning and things figure to look a whole lot different this fall if they’re passed into reality later this month.

It starts at the top where the Pac-5 Division will see the Big VIII League moved in to beef up the competition for teams like Corona Centennial. The rest of the division includes the Moore, Marmonte, and Trinity leagues, and a yet-to-be named Catholic league that includes several traditional powers.

The Central Division got a major overhaul. The newly formed Palomares League will join the Hacienda, Sunkist, Mt. Baldy and Rio Hondo leagues. That means a steep rise in class is coming for area powerhouse Monrovia, which is coming off a dominating run in the Mid-Valley Division where it won three consecutive division championships between 2010-12.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Rio Hondo League, which has lagged far behind Monrovia in recent years, will also be getting bumped up. Monrovia athletic director Randy Bell said the league will appeal the proposal based on competitive equity and enrollment.

Leagues can appeal the proposals to the playoff grouping appeals committee and a meeting to handle appeals will be held by the Southern Section on May 28.

“There are some high quality and very good football programs in that division,” first-year Monrovia coach Brett Stevens said. “I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were going to be moving up, but I just didn’t know how high or where.

“It’s going to be a challenge. We welcome the challenge. We’re looking forward to moving up, but that is a significant jump going from the old Division 11 to Division 5.”

The new-look Central would be a boon for area fans who are likely to see some intriguing combinations of local teams square off in the postseason. It will also mean a return to a more realistic division for Glendora, which languished in the Baseline League and Inland Division the past several years.

The Tartans are now in the Palomares League and could see a return to local prominence on the gridiron, especially with the top quarterback in the area in Matt Fink around for the next two years.

“You look at our league and you’ve to play well every week just to make the playoffs,” Tartans head coach Jerry Lewallen said. “Then you look at the division, and there’s some great football programs in there.”

St. Francis saw its chances at championship glory get a boost. The Knights and the rest of the new-look Mission League are slated to join the Southeast Division to battle against the Pacific, Suburban, San Gabriel Valley and Del Rio leagues.

In the last two months, St. Francis has gone from thinking it might be placed in the Pac-5 Division to now being placed in a much more doable situation in the Southeast. This offseason, the Knights have also seen powerhouses Serra and Chaminade vacate the Mission League for the Pac-5.

“It’s not like it’s going to be a walk in the park,” St. Francis coach Jim Bonds said. “I still think there are some pretty darn good football teams in that division. La Serna beat Westlake two years in a row. Compton Domiguez, you never know how strong they’re going to be. La Mirada beat us at their place two years ago.

“For us to say it’s our division and we’re going to win several CIF titles the next several years is not very smart.”

San Dimas’ prospects of winning another Mid-Valley Division championship improved with the exodus of Monrovia and the Rio Hondo League. Over the past years, the Mid-Valley has either been won by Monrovia and San Dimas, and with the Wildcats no longer around that could mean a huge run is looming for the Saints.

San Dimas now looks like perennial favorites in a division that is likely to be comprised of the Almont, Gold Coast, Montview, Mission Valley, Miramote and Valle Vista leagues.

“I want to see how far we can take this thing,” San Dimas head coach Bill Zernickow said. “I kinda liked the rivalry with Monrovia. That was always a motivating factor for our guys. Paraclete is still going to be good. And I think Pomona has gotten real good, too. We have to contend with that.”

Roddy Layton OUT as head coach at Diamond Ranch as accusations swirl that Diamond Ranch hacked into Diamond Bar’s Hudl account during week of rivalry game …

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Roddy Layton resigned late last week as Diamond Ranch High School varsity football head coach as accusations swirl that the Panthers coaching staff hacked into rival Diamond Bar’s Hudl account to obtain important scouting information during the week of their game, which was played on Oct. 18, 2013.

Layton said his resignation is not related to a letter obtained by this publication and sent to the CIF-Southern Section last week by Diamond Bar that alleges Diamond Ranch coaches obtained Diamond Bar’s account information on Hudl and used video archives and notes to help prepare for the game.

Diamond Ranch won the game 34-20, but the night was marred by a benches-clearing brawl that led to the suspensions of several players from both teams. Diamond Bar forfeited its following game because it could not field a team. Diamond Ranch went on to win the league with a perfect 6-0 record.

CIF informed Diamond Bar that the hacking accusations are a league matter. Hacienda League principals are expected to discuss the situation in a regularly scheduled meeting this week.

In the letter, Diamond Bar documents a steep rise in clicks or hits on its Hudl page the week of the game. Hudl.com has become a popular resource for coaches who can store game video, practice video and notes used for game preparation. According to the letter, a former Diamond Ranch coach came forward to Ryan Maine, Diamond Bar’s head coach at the time, about the hacking.

Diamond Bar’s account information was allegedly leaked by a varsity football player who gave it to a Diamond Ranch junior varsity player, who then forwarded it to Layton. After hearing the allegations, Maine and Diamond Bar athletic director Kurt Davies contacted Hudl to obtain a usage report for their team account during the week of the game.

Hudl’s response was included in the letter obtained by this publication and showed that its system had received 26 separate log-ins from a particular user ID during the week of the game compared to an average of six log-ins from that same user ID during all other weeks.

Layton had a record of 48-47 in eight seasons. He guided Diamond Ranch to back-to-back CIF Southeast Division championship game appearances in 2008-09. Diamond Ranch won the Hacienda League last season and shared the title in 2012.

Rumors flew last week about Layton’s resignation. When contacted on Thursday afternoon, Layton informed this publication that he was still the head coach. Layton resigned on Friday afternoon and sent a email out to player’s parents but didn’t go into detail about reasons for his departure.

Layton played for Ganesha High and later enjoyed a college career at USC. He was an assistant coach at Mount San Antonio College before becoming the head coach at Diamond Ranch. The Panthers were scheduled to participate in Saturday’s Charter Oak Spring Passing Showcase but were a late scratch.