Granada Hills soccer reached CIF bowl with no passing recreation

The early-morning fog casts a sheen over John Elway Stadium, the Granada Hills Excessive soccer gamers assembling into formation once more, bundled in hoodies beneath forest-green jerseys.

This was the stamping grounds for one of many best athletes in Metropolis Part historical past, a younger John Elway slinging the ball for the Highlanders in his pre-NFL days. But 45 years later, nary a single go cuts by this Monday morning haze, head coach Bucky Brooks barking out instructions as his gamers line up of their vaunted doublewing offense once more. And once more. And once more.

They put hours upon hours into the run recreation, Utah commit and featured operating again Dijon Stanley says. And certainly they’ve, using Stanley and his cousin Darrell Stanley to a 12-2 season and a spot within the CIF Division 4-A state championship soccer bowl recreation in opposition to Novato San Marin on Saturday.

These Highlanders aren’t simply run-heavy, although. They’re run-only, not like any state-championship workforce in California historical past. Get this: Granada Hills, the house of Elway, hasn’t accomplished a single go all season.

Dijon Stanley takes a handoff in Granada Hills’ soccer observe Monday morning.

(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Occasions)

When requested if that was unusual to look again on, Dijon Stanley grinned and shook his head.

“We’ve been doing this all year,” mentioned Stanley, who’s rushed for 32 touchdowns [not a typo] this season. “It’s not really weird to us. We always say we would rather be great at one thing than be good at a lot of things.”

The irony? Brooks, the mad scientist and former NFL punt returner cooking up this scheme, was as soon as a proponent of a variety offense at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame below then-head coach Kevin Rooney.

“He was the guy, when coaching with us, was trying to get us to throw the ball more,” Rooney mentioned of Brooks.

But after years of proficient quarterbacks and receivers at Notre Dame, Brooks shortly discovered in 2019 — his first 12 months at Granada Hills — that the Metropolis Part was a totally completely different ballgame.

After attempting to begin the season in a power-spread offense, attempting formations out of the shotgun and mixing runs with bubble screens, Brooks realized he needed to pivot as his Highlander teaching profession began 0-3. The double-wing, then, was merely part of their goal-line playbook. Brooks made it the focus of their offensive system.

In at present’s Metropolis Part panorama, Brooks mentioned, it’s not all the time simple to discover a high quality quarterback. Even more durable to retain them. So his philosophy in constructing a program? Have a system in place that permits you to play with out the go.

“In high school,” Brooks mentioned, “you got to coach what shows up.”

What’s proven up this season: the Stanley cousins, who ran wild within the double-wing behind an offensive line that’s performed collectively for a pair seasons. Darrell, a sophomore, has run for 1,294 yards. Dijon, now a senior however taking part in his first full highschool soccer season after breaking his collarbone final 12 months, has racked up 2,670 yards.

After that injury-interrupted junior 12 months, when Granada Hills stumbled to a 4-6 file, many thought Dijon would depart, he mentioned. Not an choice. He’d recognized Brooks from his youth soccer days and the coach, Dijon mentioned, gave him an opportunity after he transferred from Grace Brethren Excessive.

“It does give me a little sense of pride to just come out and play with my brothers,” Dijon mentioned. “No scouting, no recruiting. These are just kids from — half of them live around the corner from the school, me being one of them.”

On Saturday, the neighborhood children beat Laguna Seashore, a Southern Part program that’s recorded 38 passing touchdowns on the 12 months, in a 56-55 barnburner for the CIF Division 4-A regional title. San Marin, the Highlanders’ opponent for the state title Saturday, is a workforce that’s recorded — in a exceptional coincidence — 38 passing touchdowns on the 12 months.

Since 2019, Brooks’ first season, Granada Hills has handed for precisely one rating.

“I think the challenge that you have, sometimes as a coach is, are you married to systems or are you married to what works well for what you have?” Brooks mentioned.