It’s not every football game that fans realize whenever one player has the ball in his hands, a touchdown could be coming. Dijon Stanley of Granada Hills High was that player this season.
He was so electrifying that choking on food was a possible reaction at the suddenness of his impact.
Armed with 400-meter speed that made him a City Section track champion, Stanley looked for any hole while playing running back and quarterback in Granada Hills’ double-wing shotgun formation, and when one opened , he was gone.
He rushed for 2,756 yards and scored 33 touchdowns in leading Granada Hills to the City Section Division I championship, the Highlanders’ first title since 1987. Committed to Utah, Stanley is The Los Angeles Times’ player of the year in high school football.
“I’ve had a lot of fun this year,” said the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Stanley before the state playoffs began. “After the Eagle Rock loss, we went into every game having fun. We turned it up and had fun. We’re playing in the moment. I’m leaving everything on the field. People are laughing, crying. It’s a whole lot of emotions.”
That 37-22 loss to Eagle Rock on Sept. 16 might have turned around the Highlanders’ season. They rarely had an off game the rest of the way, finishing 12-3 and were Division 4-A state runners-up.
Under coach Bucky Brooks, Granada Hills put in the double-wing offense to take advantage of Stanley’s speed. The Highlanders completed one pass the entire season — in their final game. Brooks, a former NFL player and broadcast analyst, was smart enough to recognize the Highlanders’ strength.
“He’s a big mentor to show us we could make it,” Stanley said.
In Granada Hills’ biggest games in the playoffs, Stanley was at his best. He had 378 yards rushing and five touchdowns against Palisades in the City Division I final. In a wild 56-55 win over Laguna Beach in the 4-A regional final, he rushed for 252 yards and four touchdowns.
His speed makes him unique on any football field and he’s only getting faster. On the day after the Laguna Beach game, he was at a local park on Sunday morning to work on his track form with his father in preparation for a spring track season that he hopes will end with a state 400-meter championship.
“Forty-five seconds,” he said is his goal for the 400.
Stanley has already fulfilled one goal — proving that if you play for a school in the City Section, you can earn a college scholarship and attract attention.
“The bond is different when you’re playing where everyone knows you,” he said. “It’s a different energy.”
Asked if he has any sympathy for those trying to catch him with his speed, Stanley said, “No sympathy.”
At least in track, you don’t have to try to tackle him.