By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
There will be a sense of familiarity when Damien High School opens the CIF-Southern Section Central Division football playoffs against visiting Upland at 7 p.m. on Friday. Not so much for the Spartans players, who did not face the Highlanders this year, but the coaching staffs. Particularly Damien coach Greg Gano and Upland counterpart Tim Salter. To Continue, click thread
“We scrimmaged Tim Salter and Upland for years when I was at Los Altos,” Gano said. “We know a lot about each other. They play smart and they play with a lot of muscle.”
Upland, which lost in the division finals last season to Rancho Cucamonga, is 8-2. The Highlanders tied Rancho Cucamonga for third place in the Baseline League but lost the tiebreaker and enter the postseason at the division’s lone wild-card team.
Gano is not buying it. He knows what Upland did last season and the tradition Salter has built, which includes winning a division title earlier this decade.
It’s this year’s team that has him worried the most.
“They are quick on defense, and they’ll come after you,” Gano said. “They also play with a lot of emotion, so our guys are going to have to be ready.”
Damien, which began the season 1-5, comes into the contest on a roll. The Spartans, led by running back Phillip Sainz and quarterback James Guillen, have won four consecutive games to earn a share of the Sierra League title.
“I think our kids just bought into what we kept telling them,” Gano said. “They believe in themselves and are playing good football. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Damien will be without senior wide receiver Ryne Morrison, who bruised his kidney in last week’s victory over Chino and is out for the season.
“It’s a big loss for us. We have to use kids who do not have a lot of playing time,” Gano said. They just have to step up.”