By Aram Tolegian, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Former Diamond Ranch High School assistant football coach Matt Johnson says that he, along with former Panthers head coach Roddy Layton and other members of the coaching staff, accessed rival Diamond Bar’s Hudl.com account in order to gain an advantage before last fall’s rivalry game.
Johnson, a 2008 graduate of Diamond Ranch and a team captain on the Panthers’ ‘07 team, said Layton and his staff obtained Diamond Bar’s Hudl log-in information from a former Brahmas player who transferred to Diamond Ranch last fall and used it to scout the week leading up to a 34-20 win on Oct. 18, 2013.
“We were actually watching their practices (on Hudl),” Johnson said. “We were watching what they were planning on doing to us. Roddy said we can’t tell anybody. He said let’s just watch it and see what happens. I was there. I’m not trying to spare myself. I was in there.”
Layton resigned last Friday, a move that he defended by saying it had been in the works for a while. Meanwhile, the Pomona Unified School District is conducting an investigation into Johnson’s allegations, which came to light three weeks ago when Diamond Bar sent a letter to Diamond Ranch and later to the CIF-Southern Section office.
Johnson, who is now at Diamond Bar and is in the process of becoming an assistant coach on the Brahmas varsity coaching staff, came forward with the information to former Diamond Bar head coach Ryan Maine and athletic director Kurt Davies.
Hudl.com has become a popular resource for coaches who can store game video, practice video and notes used for game preparation.
Diamond Ranch won the game played on Oct. 18, 2013 by a score of 34-20. The night was marred by a brawl that led to the suspensions of players from both teams in following weeks. Diamond Ranch later won the Hacienda League with a 6-0 record. Diamond Bar forfeited its following game against Rowland due to a lack of eligible players.
A copy of the letter sent by Diamond Bar to CIF and Diamond Ranch includes a report from Hudl.com that shows a significant spike in user activity for a certain log-in during the week of the game.
Layton has denied ever logging into Diamond Bar’s Hudl account, but Johnson tells a much different story. Johnson said that during the week of the game he sat in Layton’s classroom along with the then head coach and other members of the staff while the group watched video Diamond Bar uploaded of that week’s practices.
“It changed the whole game,” Johnson said. “With the Hudl film, we knew — off of alignments, or where they were standing, or the signals he was giving — what was coming.
“It was like the third play after halftime and we threw a 60-yard bomb to score. All that stuff was called specifically because we knew their tendencies. I wasn’t a play caller, but we called specific plays in specific times because we knew what they were trying to do.
“When they were backed up on the goal line, we saw in practice what they were going to run. So what do we do? We bring the house and their quarterback gets hit, drops the ball and we score a touchdown.”
When told about Johnson’s accusations on Thursday, Layton said they stem from Johnson not getting an on-campus job at Diamond Ranch and not being made the varsity football team’s linebackers coach.
One thing Layton and Johnson can agree on was that Layton’s resignation, which came awfully late in the offseason, was planned long ago. Diamond Ranch was toward the end of spring practice when Layton stepped down and pulled out of a scheduled appearance in last week’s Charter Oak Spring Passing Showcase Tournament.
Prior to Layton’s resignation, Johnson informed his former coach that he was leaving to take a coaching position at Diamond Bar. That’s when Johnson, a recipient of two Purple Hearts for combat injuries he suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the United States Army, started receiving what he described as threatening text messages from Diamond Ranch coaching staff members.
“The threats ranged from kicking my ass to coming to my house,” Johnson said. “My phone records show that at like 2 in the morning, my phone goes crazy with text messages. Once all the threats started and everyone decided to show me their true colors, that’s when I decided to roll on people.
“I’ve kept all the text messages because I just want to have something so if that something ever happened to me, I could say ‘look this is pre-meditated. This is not just a reaction’. I’m not afraid of a fight. I’m a military veteran. But it’s just not worth it to me.”
Layton said he’s heard the same complaint from Johnson, but could not confirm the existence of any such text messages.
Johnson played fullback and linebacker for Layton in 2007, a season that ironically ended in controversy when the Panthers who were 7-3 on the field saw their record turned to 2-8 because of forfeited victories due to an ineligible player.
Following his military career, Johnson returned to the area to pursue a career in coaching. Johnson coached at Diamond Ranch last season at the junior varsity level and was the varsity special teams coach.
After an article earlier this week brought Diamond Bar’s allegations to light, Johnson said Layton called him and the two spoke for two hours. It’s a conversation Layton admits took place.
“He called me two nights ago when all these articles started popping up and asked ‘What did I do to you?’” Johnson said. “We talked for two hours. I told him this is what you did to me, this is what your coaching staff did to me. I planned on leaving 100 percent, no problem, and then you wanted to dig and dig and push.
“If I’d have said I was going to any other school but Diamond Bar, this wouldn’t be a problem. It’s not my agenda to go and make anyone look terrible. Layton did resign. He wasn’t forced out, but all this other stuff is still true, too.”