By Steve Ramirez
If it’s October, then it’s time for Diamond Ranch High School’s usual winning streak. The Panthers are living up to the tradition. Diamond Ranch, which struggled in nonleague only to catch fire and advance to the CIF-Southern Section Division finals each of the previous two seasons, again is matching the trend. The Panthers, who went 1-3 in nonleague this season, including a 56-0 loss at Santa Margarita in the season opener, have opened Hacienda League play with victories over region rivals Diamond Bar (41-0) and Walnut (35-28), a game in which they trailed 21-0 at one point.
Their next challenge comes Saturday when they host Rowland in a league game at 7 p.m. at Ganesha High.
“It can be a Catch-22,” Diamond Ranch coach Roddy Layton said of his team’s ability to turn it on and off like a light switch. “I don’t want the players to be content and think we can just turn it on during the final weeks of the season.
“We use the preseason to figure things out. We don’t want to lose games, but we want to see what will work and what doesn’t. Knowing we have done it in the past won’t help us string together victories in October and November and get us to December (and the playoffs). We just have to look at this week and try to improve.”
The Panthers’ biggest challenge might be this week when they host Rowland (4-2, 1-1), which is ranked No. 8 in the Southeast Division. Diamond Ranch (3-3, 2-0) is No. 5.
The big concern is trying to limit Raiders quarterback Michael Ball, who might be the best dual threat in the area. The senior has accounted for 988 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“He’s a great football player,” Layton said of Ball. “He’s a threat to beat you with his legs as well as with his arm. Anyone who plays that team, you have to try to contain him because you can’t really stop him.
“They have other players too, so they have good team speed. We have a good challenge in front of us. It should be a good game.”