Here’s my column from Saturday, in case you missed it.
WALNUT – Sometimes there are teams so good, it’s understood nobody can beat them but themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the 2010 West Covina High School football team. Make that the 2010 CIF-SS Southeast Division champion West Covina High School football team.
Yes, the Bulldogs are champions this morning. Victors over Bonita in one of the Valley’s greatest-ever games Friday … but not before giving their fans a major scare and allowing the ghost of their only defeat this season into the stadium.
When the season started, it was obvious West Covina was something special. The Bulldogs had five running backs who could start just about anywhere in the Valley, a third-year quarterback and an offensive line so physical it eventually would lock up all five spots on the Hacienda League’s all-league team.
Just one problem. The Bulldogs self-destructed in Week 0 and suffered a stunning loss to Covina that served as a haunting reminder for 14 weeks even the best talent can fall victim to bad outcomes when mental doesn’t mesh with physical.
For almost an entire season, the Bulldogs kept the ghost of that Covina game at bay. But at halftime of Friday’s game, they invited him in and gave him a seat right behind their bench.
With the score tied 14-14 at halftime, West Covina was poised to get the ball first to start the second half and set in motion the final two quarters that would cement its place in history.
Then it fumbled and Bonita quickly cashed in for a 20-14 lead. On the next kickoff, the Bearcats squibbed the ball and recovered it. Soon it was 23-14 and the fear of the season ending the same way it began became all too real.
Next kickoff, West Covina fumbled again. You could see the lifetime of nightmares starting to pile up. This time, though, Bonita didn’t cash it in.
West Covina slowly turned the tide and used a safety followed by a 37-yard touchdown pass from quarterback George Johnson to Marcus Haigler to tie the score 23-23.
But the bad tidings weren’t gone. West Covina practically escorted Bonita into the end zone on its next possession, with two costly penalties leading to a 30-23 Bonita lead.
It was around this time that West Covina started doing the things champions do, and the ghost of the Covina loss soon was chased from the stadium.
A 39-yard touchdown by Chris Solomon tied the score 30-30. Bonita marched right down field, but the West Covina defense, as it did several times with its back against the wall, held firm. Bonita got only a field goal for a 33-30 lead.
Over the next 1:46, the West Covina offense that threw the game away against Covina took control and didn’t settle for anything other than the game-winning score.
Johnson’s 1-yard run with seconds remaining put the exclamation point on a 13-1 season and gave the Bulldogs their own special place in history.
Some of you might think it sad that a team so great had to be branded with such a label as “nobody can beat them but themselves.”
Well, this morning it’s a beautiful thing. West Covina was that good this season. The only team that could beat the Bulldogs was the Bulldogs.
But when it counted most, the Bulldogs faced their biggest weakness and instead of beating themselves beat Bonita. And for eternity, they’ll be champions because of it.