Tribune’s Top 3 look to be in big trouble tonight …

NOTE: Here’s my column from Friday, in case you missed it.

There usually isn’t too much that the Bishop Amat, Charter Oak and West Covina high school football teams have in common.

Their fans like to argue about who would beat who in mythical matchups. They like to compare divisions, chide each other for past and current failures and downplay the others’ accomplishments. It’s all pretty healthy.

You know, the kind of stuff you’d see out of brothers and sisters.

There are a few people in the Valley like myself, who like to see all three do well, but we’re few and far between. Usually, being a fan of one prohibits you from being a fan of the others. Call it the trappings of success and tradition.

Well, tonight, all three teams and their followings will have something in common. They’ll all be playing way over their heads and wearing the title of prohibitive underdog when they take the field.

For Bishop Amat, the challenge is taking on a Servite team that’s defense is starting to be praised like the 1985 Chicago Bears.

For Charter Oak, it’s an opponent from Big VIII country named Roosevelt. No, not the Roosevelt you’re thinking of. The Roosevelt that plays out in Corona and has 67 players on its varsity roster.

For West Covina, the journey is to L.A. Valley College to face perennial power Loyola. The Bulldogs will be doing so without reigning Tribune Player of the Year Chris Solomon, who is sidelined with an ankle injury.

So there you have it, the top three teams in the Tribune area taking on Orange County’s top team, one of the Inland Empire’s top teams, and one of Southern California’s traditional powers. You can add more accolades to Servite, if you’d like. Everyone else is.
Situations like this aren’t rare for one or two Valley teams. Heck, even Arroyo took on Hart last year. But for the top three teams in the area to each be undertaking such monumental challenges on the same Friday night?

Well, I don’t recall that ever happening.

Because of the popularity of this newspaper’s blogs, the SGV is well known outside of what some people like to refer to as “our fishbowl.” I’ve heard on numerous occasions that the amount of coverage and notoriety given to SGV teams by the publication that covers them isn’t warranted. That’s probably true. But you can blame your own hometown newspaper if that’s how you feel.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure Servite fans really respect Amat. I’m not sure they view Amat the same way we do here. You see, in Orange County, 1995 was 16 years ago. In the SGV, it’s more like six months ago.

I am pretty sure that if you take a poll of the Roosevelt fans tonight, most of them will tell you they had no clue where Charter Oak was located until they exited the freeway. And West Covina? Well, Loyola fans might as well think they’re playing a team from out of state.

Somebody please pull off an upset.

Despite the Valley’s long track record of being able to produce shockers of epic magnitude, most of which in recent years have come from Amat, it doesn’t look like tonight will be the night. In fact, it could be downright ugly around 10 p.m.

Amat managed just 14 points, seven of which came in the closing minutes, against a Garfield team that Amat fans have spent the past week trying to sell the rest of the world on as being legit.

Charter Oak put up just 17 points against Glendora … but only three of them came in the second half when Glendora’s offense had been solved and everybody in the stadium was waiting for a dagger that never came.

West Covina had three coverage breakdowns against Covina, and if the same thing happens against Loyola’s receivers, we may see a running clock at some point.

I would like to think that our three best teams are good enough to take on such a daunting challenge, but I just don’t see it. The timing is off. They all have the coaching and probably the toughness to get the job done, but the talent disparity across the board looks to be too much in all three games.

Most people think my job is to sit here and homer for the local teams. I will be pulling for them, no doubt about it. But the other part of my job is to keep it real and maybe soften the blow by warning you that it may be a long, long night.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

West Covina RB/DB Chris Solomon out this week, maybe next, with sprained ankle … QB Najera and WR Franklin also out …

West Covina running back/defensive back and reigning Tribune Player of the Year Chris Solomon will miss Friday’s game against Loyola and possibly the following week’s game against South Hills with a sprained ankle.

Solomon injured himself in the first half of West Covina’s win over Covina on Saturday night. He took himself out of the game and did not return. Also injured for West Covina on Saturday night was receiver/defensive back Aaron Franklin, who suffered a fractured foot and will miss 2-4 weeks, and quarterback Jonathan Najera, who sustained a concussion and will also be held out this week.

Aram’s take: Hurts.

All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 after Week 0 …


Chargers better have their thinking caps on vs. I.E.’s Roosevelt.

1. Charter Oak (1-0) — Offense was lackluster, defense was great. Huge test vs. I.E.’s Roosevelt looms this week.
2. Bishop Amat (1-0) — See Charter Oak comment. Replace Roosevelt with Servite.
3. West Covina (1-0) — Arguably the best win of the weekend when you consider how good Covina is. No Solomon vs. Loyola is too tough of a task.
4. Monrovia (0-0) — If Wildcats can hammer Glendora, they may be No. 1 next week.
5. La Habra (1-0) — Almost had gift from above in QB Livingston, but offense still looked great.
6. Arcadia (0-0) — If Apaches can’t be St. Francis, then showdown vs. M-Town will lose luster.
7. Damien (0-0) — Yes, style points vs. D-Ranch will matter because Sparty needs a statement.
8. Chino Hills (0-1) — Mixed feelings about loss to Bear Creek in opener.
9. St. Paul (1-0) — About what you’d expect in win over La Mirada.
10. St. Francis (0-0) — This ranking makes SF an underdog vs. Arcadia and it’s hard for me to say that.
11. Muir (1-0) — Used major speed edge vs. SG beautifully. Can they keep it going?
12. Covina (0-1) — Did Colts just lose their only game of the regular season?
13. Bonita (1-0) — Perhaps I had the Bearcats a little too low. Certainly not now.
14. Santa Fe (0-1) — Ran into a buzzsaw in Arizona.
15. Azusa (0-0) — Catching San Dimas with a chip on its shoulder and also a game under its belt. Bad timing.
16. Maranatha (1-0) — Put up 41 on Big Bear. Will things be so easy vs. La Salle in rivalry game?
17. Arroyo (1-0) — QB Rivera puts up 4 TDs in air and one on the ground.
18. Glendora (0-1) — Defense did its job in loss to Charter Oak. Offense must figure it out quick.
19. La Serna (1-0) — Offense was no issue in win over Bonita Vista.
20. Ayala (1-0) — Win over D-Bar shows that ‘Dogs are capable of when healthy.
21. Cantwell (0-0) — All eyes on what should be dynamite offense vs. Schurr.
22. South Hills (0-1) — Bad luck continues for Huskies, but St. Monica may help end that.
23. Diamond Ranch (0-1) — Has recency edge on Damien, but mistakes must be corrected.
24. Rosemead (0-0) — Season opener vs. Montebello will be huge test and should tell us a lot about Panthers.
25. San Dimas (0-1) — Saints have a lot to clean up, but get a big game vs. Azusa to do it in.

More West Covina-Covina redux … Salgado fumble? Who’s call is it? What’s with all the cramping? Was Covina lucky to even be in the game? …

NOTE: This game was too good and had so many side stories that I just can’t pass up adding more commentary about it.

We’ve got proof: After watching Tommy Kiss’ video highlights of the game, I just can’t sit on this any longer. (Watch the video at 2:57 to see the play). I was standing at the perfect angle to see Aaron Salgado’s game-winning touchdown and watching it live I said “he fumbled” … and while watching the sideline referee run in I was thinking “he’s gonna call this a fumble”, but before anybody could blink, the ref on the opposite side of the field ruled it was a touchdown. Is that his call? And how did he see it? And how did he have a better angle than the ref on my side of the field or myself or Tommy Kiss, who was video-ing it from near where I was? And did the ref on my side of the field have any say in the matter? Now I know it was Week 0 for the refs, too. And they aren’t perfect JUST LIKE THE REST OF US, but I still don’t understand how the other guy made the call. Again, my beef isn’t really with the call, it’s with who made it and why. And that there wasn’t at least a discussion.

Cramping my style:
My next point of contention is all the cramping. In the fourth quarter, when Covina had momentum, I noticed Colts coach Darryl Thomas was demonstratively yelling out across the field to the refs or maybe even to West Covina during an injury timeout. I didn’t get a chance to talk with Coach Thomas after the game because I had to fly back to the office to write my story on deadline. But I know what was going on. West Covina was cramping on nearly EVERY PLAY in the fourth quarter and I think Thomas was getting sour about the interruption of game flow. I’ve covered A LOT of game and I’ve NEVER seen anything like it. I’m not saying it was intentional. It could be that the Bulldogs are the worst-hydrated team in the Valley. Coach Mike Maggiore and his staff are very much class acts, so I give them the benefit of the doubt. And it should be noted I saw Salgado and Jimmy Frazier stretching in between plays or during timeouts. I doubt they’d be doing that if they weren’t truly having issues. But regardless, I blame the referees again for this … Or better yet I blame the rules. Something needs to be done to GET THE PLAYERS OFF THE FIELD. Don’t interrupt the flow of the game to the point that we’re taking 3-5 minute breaks between each play. I truly believe the refs are hamstrung by the rules, so maybe the rules need doctoring. Are there any refs out there who can clarify this? I don’t expect an officiating crew to play doctor and determine how long a kid needs to be down on the field, and for what type of injury, but man it was a buzzkill to have so much delay interrupt the flow of a great game.

Speaking of flukes: Was Covina lucky to even be in the game? I think so. The Colts scored their three touchdown on three big plays and not three sustained drives. Covina’s first TD was set up on a fumble by West Covina QB Jon Najera, who nobody knew at the time was dealing with a head injury that sent him to the hospital. West Covina was trying to run out the clock with under 10 seconds to go in the half wjhen Najera fumbled shortly after the snap, giving Covina one play from the WC 20. Colts QB Billy Livingston found receiver Justin Mason in the back of the end zone on a fade as time expired. That was a gift from the football gods. Then, Covina got a 70-yard TD pass from Livingston to Vinny Vengas after a coverage breakdown. Then, with just over a minute left, Livingston found Peter De La Cruz behind the defense and dropped in a beautiful pass to him for the over-the-shoulder catch and TD. Those three scoring plays, while showing Covina has big-strike potential, are not confidence-inspiring drives. They’re a senior QB, who throws one of the best deep balls around and has a knack for finding mistakes in the secondary. It should be noted that Covina had a deep drive into WC territory that was stopped on downs. But I thought West Covina’s defense really dominated the night except for two stellar passes and one bad situation created by the offense.

Sunday Morning Quarterback: Thoughts and notes from around the area about this week’s games …

Note: This would typically be Saturday Morning Quarterback, but since West Covina-Covina was played on Saturday, we had to move things up a day.

The Valle Vista League went 1-6 in Week 0 with only Pomona getting a win. Am I worried? Yes and no. San Dimas and Covina lost to very good teams … teams from a higher division, too. And Wilson blew a big lead to fall to Bosco Tech. I’m a little worried about the overall depth of the league in terms of quality. Last year, Baldwin Park and Northview fielded much stronger teams. Nogales was thought to be improved, but a brand-new Rowland spanked them. Baldwin Park’s loss looks to be the most concerning if you don’t believe that El Monte is fielding one of its better teams in years. Lions coach Joel Sanchez is looking like a genius for going with Brandon Martinez at QB. We’ll learn even more when the Lions take on La Puente this Thursday. The Hacienda League was 4-3 this weekend. I thought this was going to be a down year for the league, but it’s hard to know whether I’m right just yet. The amount of talent loss to graduation was pretty remarkable for West Covina, Bonita, D-Ranch, Walnut and Rowland. Kudos to coach Dale Ziola for winning his Los Altos debut in nice fashion. Some people in the Whittier area pegged El Rancho as a contender in the Del Rio League. Nice win for LA. Stunningly, that Los Altos game story was one of the most viewed on Saturday in terms of overall hit counts for the Tribune. I guess LA fans are still out there. And what can you say about Rowland’s Craig Snyder? You can say “It was only Nogales” that the Raiders beat, but I took the win as a sign that you’re still going to have to beat Snyder. That program will not roll over for anyone … and they have the most players on their frosh team that they’ve had in a while. Good sign. Back to West Covina-Covina for a second. The Colts couldn’t have asked for a better scenario with Trib Player of the Year Chris Solomon missing more than half of the game, but they could not take advantage because like coach Darryl Thomas said, the defense could not get off the field on third down. Who knew WestCo could pass when the pressure was on? I sure didn’t. You have to be impressed with West Covina’s resolve. Solomon goes down, QB Jon Najera goes down and several players cramp up, but the Bulldogs seemingly never missed a beat. You have to tip your cap to Bulldogs coach Mike Maggiore and his staff. Although I was a bit confused by some of the play calling and a timeout on what should have been a drive to ice the game, which allowed Covina to get the ball back and tie the game, I’m extremely impressed by how they got this team ready to play. Believe me, this is not last year’s team. They had to replace a A LOT of key guys and even with in-game injuries, Maggiore and his staff seemed to be one step ahead of everything throughout the game. They showed why they’re one of the better staffs around. I want to see more out of Covina’s offense than a deep passing game. Colts RB Gevontray Ainsworth was held to 38 yards. One of the most impressive players of the weekend was Glendora RB/LB Skyler Crall. Wow. This may be beating a dead horse, but Glendora got the defensive performance it needed to beat CO, but the offense clearly was too one-dimensional to threaten the Chargers defense. It’s also very obvious when Glendora is going to get Chad Johnson the ball. He simply enters the game. I remarked TWICE to people I was watching the game with that No. 3 is going to get the ball/be targeted on this play. Sure enough, he was. If I can see it, you can be rest assured that opposing d-coordinators can, too. All eyes will be on Bishop Amat this Friday. The Lancers play in a marquee game against Servite down in the OC. It would be huge for the Valley if Amat is able to come away with the win. I’m not particularly concerned with Amat’s 14-0 win over Garfield. If you think for a second that Lancers coach Steve Hagerty showed much with Servite scouts keeping an eye on the happenings in La Puente, then I’ve got a mortgage to sell you in Riverside. I say this every year, but until Muir can string a few solid performances together, I won’t take the bait and start calling for a deep Southeast Division run. If Arcadia can’t take care of St. Francis on Friday, some of the luster of the following week’s showdown with Monrovia will be off. Some. I’ve heard from several people that the pressure is on coach Greg Gano at Damien this year. Get real. When is the pressure not on at Damien? And have the people who think Gano has underachieved at Damien taken a look at the talent he had to work with the past two years? If anything, he’s overachieved. Rome and Servite weren’t built in a day. Damien fans need to take a look at the growing talent base and not the W-L record to see whether the program is making progress. If you do that, then you realize it is. Want an early prediction for 2012? Damien will spend some time at No. 1 in the area with all the underclassmen talent that’s currently up on varsity this year. Last thing on Damien: the Spartans had to be happy to see another team go nowhere on Bonita’s defense. Final last thing on Damien: Gano will be a guest on Tuesday’s PrepXtra Live. I was impressed by the attendance at all three games I attended, but the best atmosphere had to be West Covina-Covina. The chants from the crowd and the overall noise were fantastic. I wonder how many family members Chris Solomon has. There must have been 30 people in the WestCo stands wearing No. 20 jersey/shirts. Let’s hope his injury isn’t too serious. Nice win by Montebello on Friday. The Oilers edged Roosevelt of L.A. … as Steve Ramirez said, close wins are something Montebello didn’t always get last year. Good sign. La Serna put up 32 points in its season-opening win. Another good sign. It was a rough trip to Arizona for Santa Fe, which lost 42-0 to Hamilton.

It’s time for San Dimas to face facts after Smudgepot whipping … Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

Editor’s note: Yes, you can learn a lot from sitting in your car eating King Taco. And to the investigative genius who claimed I only watched San Dimas for one series against El Monte in the SGV Shootout, since you’re so good at tracking people, can you tell me whether Coach Zernickow and Coach Mustain went to the locker room at halftime on Thursday night or did they stay up in the booth? I was on the field with Time Warner’s Reg Miller, who was waiting to get some footage of Coach Z as the teams came out to the field after halftime. But we never saw him. Did we simply miss him or did he not go to the locker room at halftime?

Was Bonita that good, or is San Dimas that bad?

That’s the question area fans will be asking for the next few days after Bonita’s 40-20 win on Thursday night at Citrus College in the Smudgepot Game. And the answer is quite simply some of both.

It’s hard to explain away what the Saints did on Thursday night. San Dimas’ coaching decisions were a second-guesser’s paradise, from an ill-conceived failed two-point conversion after the team had taken a 6-3 lead in the second quarter to rarely being able to curtail a Bonita offense that was very limited and seemingly ran the same few plays all night while shielding it’s sophomore quarterback Tanner Dieblold from dangerous situations.

I’m no coach, but I’ve always felt teams shouldn’t go for two unless they have to. San Dimas did not have to when it staked its only lead of the game early in the second quarter on DeVonte Brown’s 88-yard touchdown run. But as a spectator on the field who tried to defend Saints head coach Bill Zernickow’s decision put it to me, “It’s the Smudgepot.” Common sense be damned.

For me, that play was the turning point. San Dimas quarterback Shawn Kennedy was stuffed by three Bonita defenders before he reached the goal line and the ill-fated attempt to razz the Bearcats totally backfired. From that point, Bonita went on a 30-0 run that had half the fans at Citrus College heading for the exits early in the fourth quarter.

Prior to Thursday, the last time anybody saw Bonita in game action, the Bearcats were on the losing end of a heart-breaking loss to West Covina in the Southeast Division championship. Missing from this year’s team was last year’s dynamic senior class. Bonita was definitely vulnerable fresh out of the box on Thursday night, but only for a little while.

The Bearcats played it conservative. They relied on their defense, which is going to be a force this year. They didn’t put Diebold in dangerous situations. They kicked field goals when they should have instead of going for it on 4th-and-goal, like the Saints did early in the game … getting stuffed and missing a chance to put Bonita on its heels even if it was just a 3-0 lead.

Eventually, Bonita was a lock to figure out what San Dimas trying to do on offense. Smart coaches know how to a stop Wing-T, or a Wing-Z, but it’s up to their players to figure it out on the field. Once Bonita did that on Thursday night, it was like cracking the code to a safe. Whatever is inside is yours and you can walk right out the door.

Bonita walked right out the door with a huge run that turned a 6-3 deficit into 33-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. There was even some talk of a running clock, not that half the fans would have noticed anyway because they were already in their cars.moments after Bearcats receiver Garrett Horine made it a 27-point game on a 10-yard touchdown.

For the past week, opinions varied leading up to the Smudgepot renewal. Some felt that San Dimas was fielding an offense capable of matching what the past two Saints teams did. Others, myself included, felt that the Saints weren’t near that level of skill talent. You needed only the first three quarters of Thursday’s game to find out who was right and who was wrong. And San Dimas’ DeVonte Brown did everything he could to plead his team’s case.

Had Brown not busted that 88-yard run and had San Dimas not put up a couple late cosmetic scores, the conclusions would be more bleak.

As you might expect, both teams have a lot of improving to do. Bonita won’t enjoy nearly the same success in the Hacienda League or Southeast Division if it can’t be more threatening on offense. San Dimas won’t challenge Covina for the Valle Vista League title and bid for another big postseason if the Saints don’t find somebody beside Brown on offense to put up big plays. But you can also pin plenty of blame for Thursday’s fiasco on a coaching staff that’s too good to have its team look like a deer in headlights right after halftime.

San Dimas only trailed 10-6 at half, but a 90-yard kickoff return by Bonita’s Tourre McCulley to start the third quarter kept the snowball rolling and Bonita was in the end zone seconds later. Then came an interception on San Dimas’ next possession that eventually led to a 23-yard touchdown from Diebold to Horine. The Saints then fumbled on the first play of their next possession and Bonita cashed it in with a Brandt Davis field goal. You get the point.

Fortunately for San Dimas, a long season lays ahead, but it’s time to start being honest about the talent level on hand and realizing that the swagger from 2009′s CIF championship is long gone and a new one needs to be found.

You see, that’s the difference. Bonita clearly got that message. The Bearcats didn’t enter Citrus College on Thursday as the 2010 team. They entered as the ’11 version that’s ready to claw and scratch for everything it gets. And for that reason, the Smudgepot is staying put.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT