By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Before Diamond Ranch High School’s football team can entertain the thought of another 14-game season, the Panthers have to find a quarterback who can lead them on such a long journey. That’s what Diamond Ranch coach Roddy Layton has been focusing on as his team continues spring practice and prepares for a long summer of learning. Last year’s quarterback, Gus Viramontes, led the Panthers to two consecutive CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship games, but he graduates later this month, along with playmakers such as Amari Staten and Elisha Henley. (To continue, click thread).
Above: Who will replace two-year starter Gus Viramontes, who led the Panthers to consecutive championship games.
“We have some work to do,” Layton said. “We don’t get the 150-200 kids out for spring like some of these other programs.
“I know everyone think it’s fun to play for Roddy, but the bottom line is I look for the baddest of the bad, and if you’re not one of them, I find out right away.”
Layton’s stern words should tell you that Diamond Ranch’s spring drills are no easy feat for the players, especially if you’re coming up from the lower levels.
“It’s a new year, so having the lower-level kids coming up, they have to understand the tempo I want,” Layton said.
“I tell them all the time that I’m not content. I haven’t let anybody pat me on the back for making two finals. We have to get focused again.”
Cesar Carrillo is leading the way in the quarterback competition – he gets comparisons to Viramontes, which should make Panthers fans happy. Even all-purpose standout Aaron Almond figures to get snaps.
“We lost some playmakers, so we’ve got a job to do,” Layton said.
“We’re in kind of the situation we were in two years ago when Gus took over. If a game was tonight, Cesar would be our man.”
Rodriguez in at Baldwin Park?
The quarterback search at Baldwin Park looks to be all but over thanks to a strong spring by Mario Rodriguez, whom coach James Heggins said would start if the Braves had a game tonight.
Rodriguez attempted nine passes last season, with two of them going for scores. Quarterback appears to be the main thing that stands between Baldwin Park and another big season after last year’s starter, Manny Salcedo, graduates in June.
“We’re definitely getting a feel for who the clear-cut leader is going to be,” Heggins said.
“Spring is when you try to get a read on who’s going to be the best for your team. The battle is going to be ongoing; we haven’t crowned him yet, but he’s doing good right now.”
All-purpose threat Demetrius Jackson’s role isn’t completely defined at this point, but that’s because Heggins seems ready to use him everywhere. Jackson, a senior, didn’t play last season after transferring from Duarte, but that hasn’t stopped him from already receiving an offer from Stony Brook University in New York.
“That’s a great thing, to see a guy who doesn’t even have a junior resume but has the respect of people who come around to look at him, and get an offer to be a part of their football program,” Heggins said.
Sanchez ready for challenge
Thanks to some strong recent hires by Montview League schools, the coaching talent in the league might be at an all-time high this season, and that’s something not lost on veteran Gladstone coach Albert Sanchez.
Consider that Workman now has Scott Morrison on its sideline, while Bassett just added Craig Cieslik. La Puente’s Brandon Rohrer is considered one of the area’s top coaching prospects, and he’ll be in his second year.
Then you’ve got Joe Scherf, who’s taken Azusa to new heights. And don’t forget about Tip Sanders at Duarte and all the success he’s had.
The stakes in terms of the coaching battles have clearly gone up.
“It adds to the competition,” Sanchez said. “It’s certainly good for those schools. It’s good for the league, and maybe we’ll get more respect into the programs instead of maybe just one team getting the respect every year.
“Adding those two guys (Morrison and Cieslik) and Brandon (Rohrer) last year and Tip (Sanders), and even Joe (Scherf) at Azusa two years ago, it will certainly add to the competitiveness of our league. The coaching is going to be there.”