Luca Diamont jogged onto the football field at Venice High, dropped his backpack, put on his earbuds, turned up the song “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes and shouted “yeah” as he began loosening up for a workout under an overcast sky.
Southern California high schools produce some of the top quarterback prospects in the nation each year. Recently retired Carson Palmer as well as rookies Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen are just a few of the passers that launched NFL careers on local fields.
JT Daniels was Gatorade’s national player of the year last season at Santa Ana Mater Dei before heading to USC. Diamont, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior, has an offer from Alabama while blue-chip seniors this year include Orange Lutheran’s Ryan Hilinski and Mission Viejo’s Joey Yellen.
None is more excited for the high school football season to begin than Diamont, who missed all of last season after an accident the weekend before football practice began.
He was hanging out with friends in Palm Springs last July when they used a golf cart to travel to dinner. Diamont fell off and hit his head on concrete, resulting in a fractured skull.
“The last thing I remember is sitting down on the golf cart,” he said. “I woke up in the hospital. My dad was next to me. He told me I hit my head but I’ll be OK. It was 11 games of torture last season for Diamont, who received the scholarship offer from the national champion Crimson Tide this summer.
“It was like his heart was breaking every single week for 11 straight weeks,” Venice Coach Angelo Gasca said.
Diamont would prepare as if he were playing by studying the game plan, going to practice and watching film. During games he’d stand on the sideline and serve as a cheerleader for teammates.
“It was tough feeling 100% and not being able to get out there,” he said. “I learned to appreciate football, appreciate my family and friends, people who care about me.”
In a time when everyone associated with football is sensitive to head injuries, Diamont’s father, Don, said his son is “100% healthy” and was cleared by his neurologist.
“He had a minor skull fracture,” Don said. “The doctor told us that it would take four months to fully heal. No football. While Luca was heartbroken, my wife and I were grateful that it was nothing more. There’s no residue effects. It was very frustrating for him and for us as a family watching him go through it. He’s fully recovered like it never happened.”
The fact the family was able to keep Luca from playing football for a year was an accomplishment itself.
“It’s his passion. It’s what he loves. It’s in his blood,” Don said.
Now he’s about to be turned loose, one of the several junior quarterbacks in Southern California who will make an impact in the City and Southern Section playoff chases.
Among his highly coveted junior counterparts are Gardena Serra’s Doug Brumfield, Calabasas’ Jaden Casey, St. John Bosco’s D.J. Uiagalelei and Mater Dei’s Bryce Young.
Top seniors include Cajon’s Jayden Daniels, who has a scholarship offer from UCLA; Villa Park’s Paul Piferi, who has committed to Purdue; Murrieta Valley’s Hank Bachmeier, a Boise State commit; Hilinski (South Carolina); and Yellen (Arizona State).
“He’s chomping at the bit,” Gasca said of Diamont, employing some equine metaphors. “He’s at the gate ready to run. He’s got unbridled enthusiasm.”
At home, Diamont has been putting on a helmet, staring at the mirror and occasionally unleashing a primal scream.
“I’m pretty tired of nonpads and seven on sevens,” he said.
Diamont was the best freshman quarterback in the City Section two seasons ago, passing for 2,066 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has standout receivers Chad Johnson Jr. and Makai Cope set to catch his passes.
“They’ll see a show,” Diamont said.
All signs point toward Diamont being smarter, faster, stronger and even more confident than when he was a freshman.
“I’m excited because I’ve already seen what Luca can do, and I know how much better he is,” Gasca said.
TOP QUARTERBACKS TO WATCH THIS SEASON
Name; School; Ht.; Wt.; Yr.; Comment
Hank Bachmeier; Murrieta Valley; 6-3; 205; Sr.; Boise State commit passed for 42 TDs
Doug Brumfield; Gardena Serra; 6-4; 180; Jr.; Sit back and enjoy latest Serra standout
Jaden Casey; Calabasas; 6-1; 185; Jr.; Fresno State commit has two elite receivers
Jayden Daniels; Cajon; 6-3; 185; Sr.; Passed for 5,139 yards, 62 TDs
Luca Diamont; Venice; 6-2, 185, Jr.; After missing last season, he’s ready to star
Ryan Hilinski; Orange Lutheran; 6-3, 215; Sr.; South Carolina commit could be No. 1 in SoCal
Paul Piferi; Villa Park; 6-5, 210; Sr.; Purdue commit had just three interceptions
D.J. Uiagalelei; St. John Bosco; 6-5, 245; Jr.; Whether throwing or running, he’s elite
Joey Yellen; Mission Viejo; 6-3; 220; Sr.; Arizona State commit comfortable in new offense
Bryce Young; Santa Ana Mater Dei; 5-11; 175; Jr.; USC commit smart, efficient, unselfish leader
J.P. Andrade; Bonita; 6-3; 200; Sr.; Passed for 2,985 yards, 25 TDs
Blake Archuleta; Bishop Amat; 6-2; 190; Sr.; Two-sport athlete with toughness
Alfred Bobadilla; Franklin; 5-11; 175; Jr.; Passed for more than 2,600 yards as a sophomore
Cole Boop; Upland; 6-3; 185; So.; Passed for 2,913 yards at Calvary Chapel
Nin Burns; Covina; 5-10; 165; Jr.; Led team to 11-3 record with 2,721 yards passing
Ernesto Camacho; Arroyo; 6-1; 180; Sr.; Threw for 2,909 yards, 25 TDs
Brendan Costello; San Clemente; 6-1; 195; Sr.; Oklahoma State commit had 23 TDs and 2 ints
Ben Gulbranson; Newbury Park; 6-3; 210; Jr.; Cal commit is accurate, makes good decisions
Weston Eget; West Ranch; 6-3; 185; Sr.; Making steady progress
Kijjon Foots; Downey; 6-0; 165; Sr.; Passed for 3,140 yards, 26 TDs
Ethan Garbers; Corona del Mar; 6-2; 195; Jr.; All signs point toward breakout season
Scott Harris; Fairfax; 6-0; 180; Sr.; Lions could have one of their best teams
Myles Herrera; Redlands East Valley; 5-11; 185; Sr.; Passed for 30 touchdowns
Nick Lasher; Norco; 5-11; 205; Sr.; Passed for 2,483 yards, 23 TDs
Cole Lourd; Brentwood; 6-1; 180; So.; Showing lots of potential
Nathan Manning; Capistrano Valley; 6-0; 180; Sr.; Three-sport standout
Chayden Peery; Sierra Canyon; 6-2; 195; So.; Should show big improvement
Darius Perrantes; St. Francis; 6-1; 220; Sr.; Dependable runner-passer
Nathan Priestley, Loyola; 6-4; 210; Sr.; He’s finally healthy, so beware
Ryan Stevens, Chaminade; 6-1; 170; Sr.; Will be three-year starter
Chris Venegas; Warren; 5-9; 165; Sr.; Passed for 34 touchdowns
Jameson Wang; Harvard-Westlake; 6-1; 185; Jr.; Has passed for 47 TDs in two seasons
Ryan Zanelli; La Habra; 6-2; 190; Sr.; Ready for a big season