Bulldogs keeping goals simple - Champion Newspapers: Special Section

Bulldogs keeping goals simple

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Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2018 8:00 am

Ask Ayala High School head football coach A.J. Gracia what the Bulldogs’ goals are for the 2018 season, and he keeps his answers simple and to the point. 

“First is to make the playoffs, compete for a league championship and make a deep run into the playoffs,” Coach Gracia said. 

In his two seasons so far as Ayala coach, two of the three goals have been accomplished. It’s trying to figure out how to finish the list. 

“We’ve made the playoffs in both seasons, and we won a league title in my first year, but we haven’t gotten out of the first round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs,” said Coach Gracia, a former Chino High School quarterback. 

But, he said, every season is different. 

“I really like this group of guys. It’s always a great thing to have a quarterback with 22 varsity games under his belt and a chunk of receivers are returning this year,” he said. 

Quarterback Cole McCain, who has started every varsity game since his freshman season, is back after finishing the 2017 season 163 for 261 passing for 2,301 yards, 18 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 101.1. 

During his freshman year, the 6-foot-2 McCain threw for 1,435 yards, 11 touchdowns, six interceptions and had an 81.1 passer rating. 

McCain, however, won’t sit on the sidelines when the Bulldogs offense is off the field. He’s going to start at free safety, too. 

“I’m just trying to help out the team as much as I can,” McCain said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to play both sides of the ball.” 

As quarterback, McCain will have a strong core of wide receivers to throw to, including four returners from last year’s team. 

Matthew Munoz (24 catches, 331 yards) Jeremiah Lineberger (21 catches, 289 yards, 3 touchdowns), David Diaz (15 catches, 276 yards, 1 TD) and Andrew Aguilar (2 catches, 21 yards) all return this season. 

Coach Gracia expects to have several players carry the ball this season, saying there’s a “running back by committee,” led by junior Michael Stine III, who scored five touchdowns last season to tie for second on the team. 

Stine had 45 carries for 150 yards as a sophomore. 

Joining him will be sophomore Xavier Crockett, a transfer from Georgia, senior Abraham Ortiz and freshman Jacob Badawi. 

Ayala opens its season Friday, Aug. 17 at Chino Hills High in the unofficial Battle of the Bone football game, which the Bulldogs have lost eight straight. Last season, Chino Hills won, 24-21. 

“For us, we thought we kind of gave one away last year. The good thing is our freshman-level teams have beaten their freshman teams the past two years, so it’s not like they haven’t beaten Chino Hills before,” Coach Gracia said. “Now it’s just a matter of going out on Friday night and take care of business.” 

He said playing Chino Hills  the first week of the season makes for great competition for both teams. 

“Both teams are nervous and excited. You have butterflies whether you’ve won 10 in a row, or zero in a row. It’s going to be an exciting game,” Coach Gracia said. 

Following Chino Hills, the Bulldogs have nonleague games against Diamond Ranch, Summit (Thursday, Sept. 6), Tustin and Brea Olinda. 

Ayala will open its Palomares League season Friday, Sept. 28 at home against Glendora. Games will follow against Colony, Bonita, Alta Loma and Claremont. The Claremont game, the season finale, will be played Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Ayala High stadium.  

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