What: San Gabriel Valley Hall of Fame Game
Who: East vs. West
Where: West Covina, High School
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
There’s absolutely no secret what the West team is going to try to do in Friday’s Hall of Fame All-Star Game in order to get some respect back for its side of the Valley. And, of course, it’s also no secret what the East will try to do to keep its recent string of series dominance in tact.
The top recently graduated high school football seniors will renew the East vs. West rivalry tonight at West Covina High. Introductions are 7 p.m. and kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
When rosters for the game were announced earlier this month, the huge advantage the West had at quarterback was glaring. Tribune Player of the Year Steven Rivera of Arroyo and Star-News Player of the Year Andy Guerrero of San Gabriel combined to throw for 6,669 yards and 67 touchdowns last season.
Now teammates, both quarterback have been very vocal about getting the West back some respect after the East increased its series lead to 20-10-2 with a 7-6 win last season. It’s a sentiment that has obviously trickled down to the rest of the roster.
“I definitely think we have the right approach and attitude about the game,” said West coach Jude Oliva, who led San Gabriel to a 9-5 record last season. “A lot of the kids have a great understanding of the history of this game and know the West hasn’t been successful the last couple years. They’ve come in here and have been talking about trying to end the streak.”
Wisely, Oliva is making no bones about his team’s desire to air it out tonight and ride the arms of Guerrero and Rivera as far as they can. That means a host of West weapons should see plenty of chances to make big plays.
Muir running back Tairen Owens and Monrovia’s Marquise Bias headline the backfield. Monrovia all-purpose threat De’Shawn Ramirez and San Gabriel speedster Alex Villalobos could have huge nights if Guerrero and Rivera have their way.
Trouble is, East coach Dale Ziola said his team is well aware of the firepower the West has stockpiled and will look to counteract it with a talented secondary and fierce pass rush. Ziola led Los Altos to a remarkable turnaround in his first season, taking the program from 0-10 in 2010 to 8-4 last season.
“One of the parents had mentioned that they’re (the West) going to be going no huddle and how we better get in shape,” Ziola said. “The way you stop the no huddle is to force incomplete passes. I think we have the defensive backs to stop routes, get in people’s faces and disrupt timing so much that we can afford to put our linebackers on their quarterbacks.
“Our plan is to keep their receivers where they’re supposed to be.”
It’s easy to see why Ziola is confident in his secondary. Charter Oak’s Herman Akins is a hybrid who can run with receivers or play near the line. Bonita’s Garrett Horine has East coaches thinking he might be the best player on the field. Rowland’s Terry Ford and West Covina’s Lonzel Barnett are so fast and quick that it’s hard to imagine anyone finding room on them.
And when the East has the ball, it will be using its run game to also play defense by eating the clock and keeping Guerrero and Rivera off the field.
“We expect to play very physical,” Ziola said. “They’re talking about speed on the West side, but I’ve seen the size of their defense on their roster and I’ve seen the size of the guys we have and the running backs we have, so we’re going to be a ground and pound football team. The boys we have on this side give us a big advantage to go out and do that.”
The East’s backfield is downright frightening. There’s speed and quickness in West Covina’s Jimmy Frazier and Azusa’s Desmond Reed. There’s a bruiser in Los Altos’ Justin Fa’aola. There’s a combo of speed and physicality in Glendora’s Corey Victoria and Bonita’s Cameron Griffin.
“All the running backs expect to have a good night,” Ziola said of his running backs. “There’s nobody out there expecting to relinquish what the East has done in the past. They’re all expecting to get their fair share of carries and do great things with it.”
If the West is to win, it may have to force a faster tempo than the East wants to play. And there’s no better way of doing just that than by getting Guerrero and Rivera off early and possibly a lead a on the scoreboard.
“They’re both great at passing the ball and using their feet,” Oliva said of his QB tandem “We kind of have a little mixture of run and pass stuff for them depending on what the East is doing defensively. It’s not a surprise, we’ll throw the ball. We definitely have got some guys who can play.”