By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Things feel eerily familiar around the West Covina High School football team this week.
It was at this point in last year’s playoffs that the Bulldogs faced a Mayfair team that pushed them to the brink before earning a hard-fought 28-19 victory en route to a CIF-SS Southeast Division title.
Just change the name Mayfair to La Mirada and the Bulldogs’ coaching staff thinks the game they expect on Friday could be a similar fit.
“They’re big, physical and well-coached,” West Covina Mike Maggiore said. “If people think it’s going to be easy for us, I think they’re wrong. They’re going to be similar to Mayfair last year.
“It does remind me of that game and I hope the results are the same.”
Most local fans were hoping for a matchup of West Covina (11-1) and Arcadia, but La Mirada (8-4) sprung a mild surprise and beat the Apaches to earn itself a home game with the Bulldogs in Friday’s semifinals. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at La Mirada.
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West Covina’s bid to repeat as division champion could not be going more smoothly. The Bulldogs have beaten their first two postseason opponents – Norwalk and Pasadena – by the combined score of 93-20. But La Mirada is one of the hotter teams in the division, having won seven consecutive games since a surprising loss to Bellflower on Sept. 30.
Also making the Matadores dangerous is they played one of the tougher nonleague schedules of any team in the division and lived to tell about it. St. Paul,
La Habra, Bishop Amat and La Serna made up La Mirada’s nonleague schedule. It should be noted the Matadores gave La Habra a tough game and beat La Serna, which also is a Southeast Division semifinalist, 31-0 on Sept. 23.
“What it did was prepare them for their league and their division,” Maggiore said of La Mirada’s nonleague schedule. “It’s never bad losing two or three games early in the season as long as you end up playing in December. That’s what coaches want to do. They’re not going to play anyone in their league or division that’s a lot better than what they’ve seen already.
“It’s not like they haven’t seen players like ours. This is our toughest opponent since we played Loyola.”
Loyola, a PAC-5 Division team, is the only team to beat West Covina this season. In fact, since the Bulldogs’ one-point escape against Glendora on Sept. 23, no team has been closer than 18 points.
West Covina has gotten considerably healthier than early in the season, when reigning Tribune Player of the Year Chris Solomon was among several key players to miss time because of injury. Solomon is back and has been an unstoppable force at running back.
The same can be said for fellow running back Jimmy Frazier and even Aaron Salgado, who is pushing to join Frazier and Solomon as 1,000-yard backs this season.
“It seems like this is the time of year when we do play our best,” Maggiore said. “We’re fairly healthy, which is not always the case at this time of the year. Our running backs are relatively fresh and their bodies aren’t too banged up.
“Our guys hopefully know that they can’t look ahead, and we haven’t the last two weeks. But this is where it gets tough right here. I believe it’s going to be a four-quarter game.”