Charter Oak defensive lineman Alex Hernandez transfers to Damien …

Damien has gotten an impact transfer in Charter Oak defensive lineman Alex Hernandez, who transferred into coach Greg Gano’s program last month.

Hernandez made 33 tackles and had two sacks last season as a sophomore for the Chargers.

Aram’s take:
This might be old news to some, but I just heard about it now. From what I hear/recall, Hernandez is going to be a good one. That’s a blow for Charter Oak and a nice grab for Damien.

Chew on this …

The Week 0 showdown between West Covina and Covina will take place on its own pedestal this season. The teams will meet not on Thursday or Friday, but Saturday night, Sept. 3 at Covina District Field.

Aram’s take: The Covina Unified scheduling had a little problem with all its schools being at home, so the big game got moved to Saturday night when it will be the only show in town. Should be awesome.

REVISED/EDITED: Pre-spring practice All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 …

Is Charter Oak the favorite in the Sierra League? Looks like it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you saw the Chino Hills write up on the original Top 25 I posted, you probably saw the write up for Arcadia. Somehow they got blended and during my initial edit, I somehow forgot to bold Arcadia and rank them. They are absolutely part of the rankings, No. 10 to be exact. Total editing screw up on my part. Now fixed. Cal High drops out.

Some teams are about to start throwing. Some teams already have. Some teams had roast beef. Some teams had none. Anyway, we’re gonna keep things traditional around here and break the season down into the usual segments: spring practice, passing circuit/linemen competitions, August (fall practice) and of course the season. Here’s the pre-spring Top 25. This is very raw, so please feel free to tell me where I’m too excited or not excited enough.

1. Bishop Amat
— QB Ruiz, RBs Moore and Shay, WR Sanchez, TE Velasquez all back on what should be an outstanding offense. But is the ‘D’ finally going to be a PAC-5 championship-caliber stop unit?
2. West Covina — The program is on fire right now and although several key veterans graduate, D-1 prospects in RB/DB Solomon and DE Meaders return. Not to mention RB Aaron Salgado.
3. La Habra — Highlanders have a lot to replace, but the program has gotten to a point where that’s rarely a problem. And have to think a defense built around LB Porter will be scary.
4. St. Paul — QB Paul Telles and RBs Cabral and Ortega are back along with six other starters on offense. Defense also has eight starters back. Swordsmen will go from mild surprise last year to high expectations this year.
5. Charter Oak — QB Santiago to WR Gilchrist could be the area’s most lethal combo. Young RBs Garcia, Scoby and Vaughns all a year older and a year stronger. Lines and defense are the big questions.
6. Monrovia — Hard to lose a program-changing QB like Bueno, but the ‘Cats have major D-1 talent in DL McCarthy, huge upside QB in Frazier, and solid WRs in Craft and Bryant. If RB Ramirez is back with the team, M-Town goes to another level.
7. Covina — Easily HC Thomas’ best team since 2006. QB Livingston, RB Ainsworth, WR Venegas all among area’s best at their respective positions and there’s plenty of veteran experience back on both lines and defense. Scary.
8. St. Francis — Lots to replace, but Travis Talianko is a beast, RB Austin De Los Santos should be even better and the defense has one of the best LB duos around in McAleenan and Anderson. Do you trust Jimmy Bonds to develop a QB? I know I do.
9. Chino Hills — Decimated by graduation, but since when do the Huskies not have excellent talent to work with? QB Chavez is back, so that’s one headache out of the way.
10. Arcadia — I may be sipping too much of the Kool-Aid here. I’m always skeptical the Apaches have enough along the lines to bring home hardware, but QB Carr, WR/DB Lagace, RB McKinley, RB Arnett all back to form dynamite offense.
11. Santa Fe — Granados, Altamirano, Mahlstede and Prado lead what should be a defense good enough to send the Chiefs on a run comparable to what La Serna made in last year’s Southeast playoffs.
12. South Hills — QB Hernandez and RB Hart return and star-in-waiting Jamie Canada could be back in time for league. Huskies lose a lot on both lines, but who in the Sierra League is really capable of mowing anybody else over?
13. Muir — Two D-1 prospects in Kevon Seymour and Tairen Owens. Just not sure the Mustangs have enough depth to string together the 3-4 good games they’ll need to bring home the hardware.
14. Maranatha — The Minutemen have the area’s top college prospect at quarterback in Elffers and he’s got legit weapons in Younger and McGee to work with. New HC Karavedas is a former DC, so the Minutemen just might have the defense needed to hang with Monrovia or Covina.
15. Bonita – Lots of buzz already about the lower-level talent that HC Podley and staff will have to get game-ready in a short amount of time. All they need to do is learn how to win under the lights, according to most area pundits.
16. Damien — Coaching staff goes from good in a veteran kind of way to good in a youthful kind of way. Two years of Gano saying “We’re going to be pretty good in a few years” should begin paying off this fall.
17. Glendora — Obviously, the upcoming decision on who the new HC will be looms large. No QB Jeffries around anymore, but RBs Holmes and Victoria return. Tartans may not be Baseline good, but they’re still good enough to throw a scare into just about anybody on this list.
18. Diamond Bar — The Brahmas look like a legit threat to be second place in the Hacienda with QB Omana, RB Clayton and WR Katrib all back. The defense will have to be better and as will the lines. But remember, DB was 6-4 last year and just got a year better.
19. Diamond Ranch — The Panthers lost A LOT from last year’s team, but QB Carrillo is a year older. Who totes the rock for Roddy, though?
20. Arroyo — QB Rivera is back and that right there is probably good enough to make the Knights the overwhelming choice in Mission Valley League. But they may not be a top-four seed in the Mid-Valley playoffs and that might just be a good thing.
21. San Gabriel — QB Guerrero and WR Villalobos form a potent combo and having returning experience in the skill spots is something the Almont League is short on. Remember, the Mats closed the season by beating Alhambra and Schurr by double digits.
22. Rosemead — True, the Panthers lose all-everything RB Fregoso and veteran QB Macias, but after that several key contributors like RB/LB Eddy, WR/DB San Miguel and WR/DB Garcia are back. Rosemead can always run the ball and play solid defense, so that puts them right in the mix of the area’s top teams.
23. La Serna — Last season’s senior class carried most of the show, but RB Medina gives the Lancers one of the best backs around. The defense has leading tackler Jones and leading sacker Nesheiwat back.
24. San Dimas — QB Kennedy is back after what amounted to a year off. All-purpose threat Dillon Corona looks set for a big season. The defense should be solid with Nathan Torres back. Saints look solid, but not overwhelming.
25. Azusa — QB Martinez is back and there’s some solid experience in key spots like DE Nunez, RB/LB Chavez and RB/DB Reed. No reason to think the Aztecs aren’t the team to beat in the Montview despite the heavy losses.

QB battles are on at West Covina and Bonita …

‘Old Reliable’ George Johnson won’t be around for the ‘Dogs to rely on this fall

With preparations for this fall already under way, the big question around West Covina High School is who will pilot the Bulldogs football team as it tries to defend last year’s CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship.

Three-year starting quarterback George Johnson is set to graduate in June and that means the luxury of having an experienced signal caller is no longer afforded on West Covina coach Mike Maggiore.

“As a coach, at this point in the game, everything concerns me,” Maggiore said. “It was nice (with George) going into the spring and summer knowing what we had and that we were pretty much set.

“I believe in our coaches and the ability that we have in getting our kids ready to play.”

The competition is wide open at this point, with Chris Caballero leading the way after guiding West Covina’s junior varsity team to a 10-0 record last season. Maggiore is also entertaining the idea of trying running back Jimmy Frazier under center.

Don’t expect a winner to be named until right around the first game of the season. Maggiore expects the battle to last well into two-a-days and the auditions begin in May with West Covina hosting several four-way passing competitions.

One thing is for certain, though. Whomever wins the job will have the luxury of handing off to Tribune Player of the Year Chris Solomon and talented backfield mate Aaron Salgado.

Coaches are raving about Solomon’s progress this offseason in the weight room. The soon-to-be senior has gone from 175 pounds at the end of last season to 192 today. He’s squatting 445 pounds and has kept his speed.

Solomon got his first offer of the offseason last week from Colorado and is expected to get another soon from Arizona State.

West Covina’s line, which has several key starters to replace, is also performing well in the weight room, according to Maggiore.

“The kids know if they’re going to play football here, they’re going to lift weights,” Maggiore said.

“They’re not going to go through the motions either, they’re going to lift with a purpose.”

West Covina’s offensive line will likely benefit from a linemen competition the school will host in late June.

Position battles rage at Bonita

West Covina is far from the only place with a big question mark at quarterback. Bonita, which played West Covina in last year’s Southeast Division championship game, is also looking to replace a veteran passer.

For the Bearcats, though, youth may be served by the time it’s all said and done. Coach Eric Podley said his quarterback competition is a three-way battle between two sophomores and a senior. And given Podley’s past history of developing quality signal callers, nobody should be betting on a big drop off in production.

“It will be different in the sense that we’ve never really started a sophomore at quarterback in the years that I’ve been here, but I think there’s a chance that could happen this year,” Podley said. “I think the two sophomores we have that are vying for the position may be some of the most talented players we’ve had at that spot. We had a 10-0 freshman team and both guys were pretty successful there.”

The position wars don’t end at quarterback. Podley must replace a dynamic senior class that will leave a number of holes in plenty of other places.

Bonita loses four out of five linemen and three out of four receivers from last year’s team, but looks strong at running back where junior-to-be Reggie Turner leads a talented group that runs deep on experience.

Podley said his team may do more passing competitions this offseason, but will modify things so that there are more one-day competitions as opposed to two days.

“I think the players we have know how to win, but I don’t think they know how to win at the varsity level yet,” Podley said. “There’s going to be some growing up and seasoning that has to be done.”