There are no clear-cut favorites in the Sierra: Ayala coach Tom Inglima on Damien, “I don’t care that their record is 1-4, they look very good.”

By Pete Marshall, Bulletin: The Sierra League football season last year was quite a race, with Chino Hills, Ayala and Glendora finishing in a three-way tie for the top. These are the same three expected to battle for the top spot this year. As league play opens this week, perhaps a fourth team could battle for the league crown, too.
“I don’t care that their record is 1-4,” Ayala coach Tom Inglima said. “They look very good.” That 1-4 team is Damien, which has played one of the toughest nonleague schedules around. Damien’s nonleague opponents are a combined 22-4 this season, and the Spartans lost their past two games to La Puente Bishop Amat and Covina Charter Oak by a combined 12 points. To continue reading, click thread

When both Inglima and Damien coach Greg Gano found themselves at a Glendora game, they talked about which team had the more favorable league schedule.

Damien starts with Chino Hills and Glendora. Ayala begins its league season with Chino and Diamond Bar, two teams not expected to challenge for the league title.

“Ideally, you’re building momentum, and last year we rode a six-game winning streak into the Chino Hills game, which we won,” Inglima said. “There’s a lot about building momentum. But it’s about whoever can get to three wins (to get to the playoffs).”

Ayala probably had the weakest nonleague schedule of the top four, with a combined record of 8-17, Chino Hills is only marginally better at 10-17, and Glendora is in the middle with a 13-13-1 combined record for its nonleague opponents.

“The teams that we’ve played don’t have an overall record that would impress anybody,” Inglima said. “But I thought we had a good bye week.”

Ayala, Chino Hills and Damien all had a bye week last week, with Glendora beating Placentia El Dorado, 24-3.

Inglima said the bye week helped his team get healthy, including offensive linemen Curtis Mowery and Matthew Moore, who had both missed time with ankle injuries.

Ayala isn’t as lucky at punter, where L.B. Rodriguez has an MCL injury and won’t be available for at least the start of league. In a league where field position is critical, his loss could be felt.

Ayala’s offense is much more balanced than in years past. Two years ago, it was pass-oriented. Last year, it was run-oriented. Now, it’s a little of both.

“Our offense has been up and down,” Inglima said.

Diamond Bar’s Andrew Cameron leads the league with 1,100 passing yards, but none of the quarterbacks for Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Damien, Glendora or Ayala have starting quarterbacks with more touchdown passes than interceptions.

Phillip Sainz has been the key to the Damien attack, rushing for 583 yards and four touchdowns in five games.

Chino Hills’ Nate Harris, Glendora’s Andre Holmes and Ayala’s Mauricio Reynoso are Nos. 2, 3, and 4 in the league in rushing, but more than 200 yards behind Sainz.

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