Despite having a more difficult preseason than many of their league opponents, the Diamond Bar High School football team has better odds of punching in their ticket for a spot in CIF this year, as they head into season with one more win than its previous year.
“Last year, going into league we were 1-4 and went 3-2 in league; we became playoff qualifiers,” head coach Jeff Reitz said. “But because there were too many playoff qualifiers in our division and we went 1-4 in non-league, we didn’t make the playoffs. This year, [if] we go 3-2 or 4-1, we are in the playoffs.” The team is 1-0 in the Mt. Baldy League after going 2-3 in non-league games.
Throughout their first five games, the Brahmas have made additional adjustments on the field due to issues in filling the lineups with available players. The changes led to inconsistencies and slowed team development.
“Because of injuries and things of that nature, we’ve had to play guys in different positions,” Reitz said. “We have had to tweak some things around but the kids eventually get used to it.”
In spite of this drawback, Diamond Bar has refined other aspects of their game through star senior quarterback Dylan Karanickolas. Under Reitz’s tutelage , Karanickolas seems more comfortable adjusting to his coach’s play variety, keeping opposing defenses on their heels.
Moreover, contributions from unexpected role players have also augmented the team’s success thus far. Senior tight end Brian Baker has been one of the unsung heroes for the Brahmas.
“One of the guys who is a freak, in terms of having an absolute endearment in playing as good as anybody on the field, is Brian Baker,” Reitz said. “He has knocked the living snot out of people; he has caught the ball in big situations; he makes the big blocks.”
Although Diamond Bar has placed itself in a more favorable position to surpass last year’s achievements, Reitz mentioned certain areas that need urgent development.
“One thing I am disappointed at is that even though the defense is getting better, they need to play more angry,” Reitz said. “They need to take it personal when someone gets a yard on them.”
Offensively, the head coach likes to run 80 to 90 plays per game, in order to tire opposing defenses for the fourth quarter.
Through this strategy, the Brahmas run and pass the ball effectively to create more scoring opportunities, while the latter side of the ball struggles to match the pace of the offense.
This strategy came to life in the team’s game against Buena Park. As Karanickolas picked apart the Coyotes’ defense with long connections to Wells, the Brahmas had consistent offensive flow throughout the game, mixing up play-action calls with running plays by junior running back Josiah Hunter. Diamond Bar blew out Buena Park 53-19.
On the contrary, Diamond Bar found a more challenging opponent in the Rowland Raiders.
Though Karanickolas and Hunter struggled to produce yards for the Brahma offense in the first half, they mounted a comeback in the second half. But the Raider quarterback and running back consistently made stellar plays. The late rally could not overcome the large lead Rowland built in the first half, and Diamond Bar lost 22-14.
Despite the stars of the team, Reitz said he believes that success in league will be found through discovering the essential role players of the team.
“Stars on a football team are relative; you can’t count on one or two guys,” Reitz said. “So the guys you are not normally counting on, they have to raise their expectations of play.”
The team finishes the season with four games: the Homecoming match against Chino on Friday, at Ontario on Oct. 18.