If we’re to assume the best teams in the area are Bishop Amat, Charter Oak, Chino Hills, Glendora and possibly South Hills, and that the Pac-5 and the Inland Division are far superior than the Southeast or Mid-Valley Divisions, then the Valley’s best mid-major is the new Hacienda League. I’m not saying Diamond Ranch, West Covina, Bonita and so forth couldn’t compete with teams in the Sierra or teams in the Inland (I won’t go there in the Pac-5), but they have to prove they can dominate and win championships, such as Charter Oak, to be among the discussion of top programs. The Hacienda will be an interesting race, bringing West Covina and Diamond Ranch closer together, creating a huge rivalry between the Diamond schools, and including the area’s winningest program of all-time, Los Altos, a school easy to forget because of its recent struggles. So how’s this going to shake out. Let’s take a look. I will rank the Valle Vista on Thursday, Sierra on Friday, Montview Tuesday, Mission Valley Wednesday, Serra and Baseline Thursday, and let the games begin on Friday.
1. West Covina — The size up front on both sides, a third-year starting quarterback and enough running backs to give new meaning to the word depth. If the Bulldogs aren’t plagued by injuries, such as they were last year, this is the team to beat. Not just in the Hacienda, but in the Southeast.
2. Diamond Ranch — Coach Roddy Layton is on a mission, and now that Charter Oak is gone there are no excuses. This is the team that beat South Hills two straight years in the playoffs, not many schools can say that. Although they graduated a few players, it was obvious at a recent practice that this is a program that reloads, not rebuilds. I mean, athletes everywhere, and the spirit was there. With their nonleague schedule lighter than years past, I don’t expect them to start 1-5 or 0-5 like years past.
3. Rowland — Yes, the return of quarterback Michael Ball. This kid was so sensational as a sophomore, then broke his collarbone in the league opener against Walnut as junior. Think of it, Ball battled eventual champion Charter Oak in the semifinals as soph, that experience is invaluable. Even with Ball going down, the Raiders competed, have a lot returning and coach Craig Snyder is not to be undervalued as a coach, in fact, he’s one of our best.
4. Diamond Bar — Yes I said it, the Brahmas check in here over some other notable teams. Even though they got spanked by Walnut and West Covina in nonleague games last year, I like the Brahmas in this spot. This is a team that didn’t have problems scoring points, and returns senior QB Andrew Cameron, who averaged 179 yards a game. They have a lot returning and the new league is a chance for them to reinvent themselves, especially with Diamond Ranch in it. Remember, back in the 80s the purple was among the valley giants.
5. Bonita — Oh I can hear it now, what are you thinking Fred J? I hope K.C. (inside blog joke) is settled in for this but it’s pretty simple, if they don’t have 6-foot-4 QB Garrett Pendleton healthy by the start of league, then No. 5 is pretty generous. Even with Pendleton, I would have ranked Bonita No. 4 behind Rowland. Having said that, this is a wait-and-see. From everything I’ve heard (from Bonita supporters) if Pendleton is ready by league, this is a team capable of winning league. They might wind up being the area’s biggest surprise, but after watching them the past two years, I’ve got to see it before I believe it.
6. Walnut — This is a balanced league when you’re ranking a Walnut at No. 6. My issue is, I thought Walnut was good enough to compete for the San Antonio last year after starting 5-0, then what happened. A 27-7 loss to a Rowland team that lost Ball during the game. A 31-11 loss to West Covina and another spanking to South Hills and the playoff dreams were over. And guess what, this team isn’t as good as last year, though they do have some playmakers. Again, let’s wait and see, they did beat Bonita in a non-league finale.
7. Los Altos — Ouch, the winningest program in Valley history picked last. It’s the sign of the times, I guess. There would be no better story than new coach Jim Arellanes somehow bringing the Conqs back to glory, or even contention in his first season but it doesn’t appear they have the horse’s. Simply put, the rest of the league is just better.