Here’s my column from Friday, in case you missed it.
It seems like just yesterday that I was strolling out to the Covina High School practice field to perform my due diligence on the Colts.
As I baked in the August sun, a Covina assistant coach saddled up to me and in a low voice, as if the cops were listening, asked “What’s West Covina look like this year?”
My reply: They look like the best team in the area.
A week or so later, Covina beat West Covina. Nice call, Aram.
Thirteen weeks later, West Covina is playing for the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship and a chance, in this writer’s eyes, to be considered the top team in the area. Nice call, Aram.
And so it goes on the high school football beat where geniuses like myself are made to be mere mortals on what seems like a weekly basis … and the literate Valley masses are there to remind me.
I should have known that this season would be like no other. The writing was on the wall when the CIF-SS changed things up last spring with its division realignments. I should have known that in the chaos great fun would be had.
After being away for three seasons, I can’t tell you how much I missed the drama of an SGV prep football season. And it seems like I got three years worth of drama crammed into one season. A kind welcome back to be sure. And now the season is drawing to a close. West Covina and Bonita will bring down the curtains tonight.
I can’t recall a bigger buildup to a season than the one we experienced this past summer. Once the party got started, the intensity flowed uncontrollably. You think I’m just referring to what took place on the field? Try the Tribune office.
After one of many arguments I had with (prep editor) Fred J. Robledo this season, I thought to myself that there’s got to be something wrong with me because at 35 years old, I shouldn’t be arguing with the ageless wonder Robledo (he’s older than me) about who’s played the tougher schedule – Amat or Chino Hills.
But that’s me. I’ve got the sickness. I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t know who I caught it from, but there’s many like me out there who are infected, too.
Chino Hills Tom’s videos from the biggest games were priceless. Mike “The Cousin” Robledo’s live chats from the biggest games brought things to another level. Robledo’s teenage-like enthusiasm for a man his age was epic.
And you, the fans, with your passion were unmatched.
Perhaps what captures us is the allure of watching in real time as a lifetime of memories are made. It’s not only the winning teams who make those memories, it’s the losing teams as well. One play, just one 10-second speck in a lifetime of events, can stick with a player or coach or fan or writer forever. That’s some powerful stuff.
So as West Covina and Bonita take the field tonight to play for the best type of memory, I will be thinking back to August when everybody had hope and everybody was undefeated.
I will think back to September when Glendora’s Chad Jeffries was simultaneously running wild and throwing darts. When Azusa was cracking skulls. When Bishop Amat’s Rio Ruiz took his first snaps as the unquestioned starter.
I will think back to October when Vinny Venegas helped Covina take control of the Valle Vista League. When Claremont quarterback Daniel Kessler was torching everyone. When Arroyo rode quarterback Steven Rivera to a win over rival Rosemead.
I will think back to November when a down-and-out South Hills picked itself up off of the floor and stunned Claremont before seeing another valiant effort end in dramatic fashion to Travis Santiago, Dennis Rufus and Charter Oak. When Amat saw a 9-0 start turn into a 9-2 finish. When Azusa’s party came to a screeching halt.
When San Dimas showed it still had the heart of a champion.
It’s sad it has to end, but it does have to end. And end it will with two teams – Bonita and West Covina – who represented the Valley like the championship teams they both are.
If this season has taught us anything, it’s that the Valley’s landscape has changed. It’s probably temporary.
A cycle. Last year, the final act belonged to Charter Oak, Diamond Ranch and San Dimas. This year it’s Bonita and West Covina.
In another 12 months, we’ll find out who’s next. But for now, there’s one last bit of business to take care of and one huge memory to be made.