By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Diamond Ranch High School surprised Charter Oak officials on Tuesday when it announced Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship game will be played at Ayala High at 7:30 p.m. Charter Oak would have been more comfortable at Mt. San Antonio College, where the Chargers defeated the Panthers 30-14 last year. It’s also where they have won three of their four division titles and have a perfect 3-0 record.
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The Chargers won their only other championship at Charter Oak in 1998.
Just like last season, Diamond Ranch is the home team and had the right to pick the venue. Last season, Diamond Ranch officials wanted to play at Ganesha High, where it plays all of its home games, but Charter Oak officials balked and Diamond Ranch agreed Mt. SAC would be fine.
After getting the home game again, Diamond Ranch considered Mt. SAC but wanted no part of playing on a natural grass surface that is in bad shape and expected to be much worse if the forecast for rain on Thursday and Friday comes to fruition.
Besides, the Mt. SAC football team is practicing on its home surface this week in preparation for its third consecutive state championship game appearance this weekend. The Panthers picked a place closer to home after considering other venues like Pasadena City College and Walnut High.
Citrus wasn’t a possibility either, since Los Osos and Upland already booked it for Friday’s Central Division title game.
Panthers coach Roddy Layton knows some will think there is gamesmanship involved, but he felt it was fair to both sides.
Layton also said Ayala will add 500 seats on the visiting side that already seats 2,200.
“I played at Mt. SAC, I would love to play there again, but the field, especially if it rains, will be in bad shape,” Layton said. “Ayala is a new stadium, they put in new (synthetic) surface over the summer. And it’s close enough to both schools where the drive shouldn’t be much of a factor. It’s a little closer to us than them, but it is our home game.”
Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar still would have preferred Mt. SAC, but said it shouldn’t be an issue once the game starts.
“I just hope the bus driver knows where he’s going, because I don’t,” Farrar joked. “Obviously you want to find a place where your kids can perform regardless of the conditions, but I like the old mud game and all that stuff. You find out how tough your kids are.”
Even though Charter Oak has playmakers, it relies on a big offensive line and running back Adam Muema. In the mud this could benefit the Chargers, who like to pound the ball.
For the Panthers, a muddy surface could make life more difficult for Panthers quarterback Gus Viramontes, who has come up big in recent weeks.
“I think they’re looking for a place that fits their needs, it’s their home game,” Farrar said. “It makes it less of a neutral site for them also, but they get to make those decisions. I’m just a football coach.”
Layton denied gamesmanship was involved.
“They have great receivers too. look at Dennis Rufus, he runs fast, makes great catches,” Layton said of the Chargers receiver. “Their quarterback (Travis Santiago) throws the ball, too. It’s not to anyone’s advantage.
“The bottom line is that we’ll play in the same conditions. It won’t matter one way or the other.”
Saints staying put
With No. 2 San Dimas (12-1) facing top-ranked Monrovia (13-0) in Saturday’s Mid-Valley championship game at Citrus College, Saints coach Bill Zernickow wanted to schedule a practice later in the week at a nearby stadium with an artificial surface in hopes it would rain to simulate Saturday’s conditions since rain is in the forecast.
“We learned you can’t do it,” Zernickow said. “CIF says you have to practice on your home field, which is the same for (Monrovia) too, so nobody has an advantage.”
Zernickow said he doesn’t think the weather will be a factor.
“Neither one of us are big passing teams,” Zernickow said. “You won’t have the mud or other factors. The ball will be wet, but that’s not a real big deal.”
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