Dominating most of their league competition, the Brahmas will be heading into the CIF playoffs for the first time since 2013, sneaking in despite the final game loss.
The Brahmas will travel to Alhambra High School on Nov. 8 in what they hope will be a long run in the playoffs.
Although this will be the athletes’ first CIF playoff experience, head coach Jeff Reitz seems to be unconcerned about the Brahmas’ performance.
“We can play with anyone in this division, so I’m not worried about that,” Reitz said. “It’s up to whether we work hard enough and if they buy into the things I’m saying.”
Their 3-2 record in league is mostly due to the defensive squad, which has allowed three touchdowns or more in just three of their ten games played.
“It helps having someone in the middle like Leo Carreon, who is fast and is as great of a hitter than anyone you have in high school football,” Reitz said. “Pair him with Jojo Alarcon, having those two guys as middle linebackers make it easy to run a great defense while you have your role players making big hits and picks; they’ve been incredible.”
Diamond Bar paired efficient defense with stellar offense throughout the season, averaging nearly 400 yards a game primarily due to senior quarterback Dylan Karanickolas. His rapid adjustments in game-pressure situations were essential to the team’s success.
“It [success on offense] takes smart kids that buy in, because we don’t just run five plays throughout the game,” Reitz said. “Not only do I have this, but I have a special quarterback that can change the play anytime he wants if he doesn’t like the play and skill guys that were first team all league last year that have stepped in.”
Reitz also acknowledged the offensive line’s development for much of their success, allowing the team to run the variety of plays he wishes to implement.
“Last year, our offensive line was new, young and weak,” Reitz said. “This year, it’s the same offensive line, and they’re big and unbelievably strong.”
All these components were on display in the Brahmas’ three wins during league, as the team blew out opponents by double-digit margins while holding them to less than scores of two touchdowns in every contest.
Against the Chino Cowboys, the Diamond Bar offense exploded for eight touchdowns in a landslide victory. Both Karanickolas and junior running back Josiah Hunter exhibited their mastery on offense, combining for 350 yards with five touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, the superior Brahma defensive lines continued to sniff out the run-predictable Cowboy offense, consistently earning tackles for lost yardage. The Brahmas routed them 53-13.
Diamond Bar continued their success against the Ontario Jaguars, as Karanickolas yet again dissected the opposing defense by throwing four touchdown passes. The Brahma defense not only put up impressive numbers in sacks and tackles but also produced points as well, featuring a pick-six interception by senior cornerback Cory Ung to seal the win against Ontario, blowing them out 34-6.
However, the Brahmas faced a tough opponent in their fourth league match, facing off against the Chaffey Tigers who also had a 3-0 record heading into the game.
In spite of the terrific performance by Karanickolas, who threw for 346 yards on connections to junior wide receivers Blake Davis and Chase Wells, the Tigers’ run game proved insurmountable. Chaffey continued to run the ball down the Brahmas’ throat, accumulating seven touchdowns on the ground paired with 547 total rushing yards. Diamond Bar lost 60-27.
The Brahmas also suffered a heartbreaking loss in their last league game against the Don Lugo Conquistadores.
In the final game of the regular season, Karanickolas had another stellar performance, scrambling for extra yards after escaping the pocket and finding Davis and Wells down the sidelines for long yardage plays. Hunter also had a solid outing, finding holes in the Don Lugo defense on inside handoffs.
However, a misread by Karanickolas in the fourth quarter caused a crucial interception, which subsequently allowed Don Lugo to kick the game winning field goal from 25 yards. The final score was 16-13.
With these performances under their belt, Reitz said he expects the Brahmas to have a strong outing in the postseason.
“They just have to believe in themselves, believe in me and then believe in all the things that we’ve been doing as a group together,” Reitz said. “They have to believe that they are going to reach the success that they want to have. They have to get into it and play hard.”