“(Vaughns) is their star player, runs well and catches the ball. They’ve got a very balanced offense and they’re big up front so they know how to establish things. We’re faster and quicker, so we’ll have to use that to our advantage.” — Diamond Ranch coach Roddy Layton
By Clay Fowler, Staff Writer
When Roddy Layton was promoted to Diamond Ranch head football coach in 2006, he told his athletic director in the next six years Diamond Ranch would have played in at least two CIF championship games and won one. “So far,” Layton said, “everything I envisioned has come true.” Layton’s next vision is his Panthers prevailing over South Hills in Friday’s CIF-SS Southeast Division semifinal. A win would land Diamond Ranch in its second CIF championship game in as many seasons. To continue, click thread
In seemingly less and less of a coincidence, the Panthers have begun the past two seasons with one win in their first seven games. This year’s squad reached .500 for the first time with a 33-27 win over third-seeded Montebello Schurr last week.
Six weeks ago, the Panthers compiled 13 total yards in a 12-0 loss to Charter Oak, their sixth consecutive defeat, to drop to 1-6.
“In the middle of the season the last two years everybody asks `What is Diamond Ranch doing?’ ” Layton said. “This isn’t college football. You only need to win at certain times in high school, and we have a formula that involves playing tougher teams early in the season. We weren’t able to finish some of those games but now we’re figuring out how to win.”
Last season, a Diamond Ranch team that finished third in the Miramonte League needed overtime to figure out how to beat a 10-win South Hills team in the quarterfinals, 15-12. This season, South Hills (10-2) enters as the No. 2 seed in the division, although the Huskies have won their two playoff games by an average of 8.5 points.
Diamond Ranch opened the playoffs with a 41-18 win over Pacific League co-champ Burbank Burroughs before outlasting Schurr in a thriller last week that ended with Elisha Henley’s interception as time expired.
That was just the latest nailbiter for a Panthers team that lost four consecutive games this season by a total of 22 points. Last-second field goals sunk the Panthers two weeks in a row in losses to Glendora and Chino Hills, which still is alive in the CIF-SS Central Division semifinals.
The score only tells part of the story.
“Each season is different and this year we lost a bunch of players to the flu early on and we had some injuries,” Layton said. “But you don’t always have to win to learn. You probably learn more from losing. We got our second-string guys some starts and now it’s almost like we have two starting lineups.”
South Hills’ starting lineup includes the versatile Geoffrey Vaughns, who leads the team with more than 1,000 rushing yards and is the team’s second-leading receiver with 33 receptions for 609 yards. The 6-foot, 190-pound senior who also has accounted for 23 touchdowns is running behind an offensive line that has a size advantage on Diamond Ranch.
“(Vaughns) is their star player, runs well and catches the ball,” Layton said. “They’ve got a very balanced offense and they’re big up front so they know how to establish things. We’re faster and quicker, so we’ll have to use that to our advantage.”