As a sportswriter covering the local football scene, I know something’s wrong when Covina High School is the biggest team I’ve seen all season.
But that’s the current state of Valley football as the season progresses toward the most exciting time of year – the playoffs.
Why is this important? To borrow an overused phrase: Size matters. And this Valley is lacking it and that’s something that will put a ceiling on the postseason chances of some of our best teams, especially top-ranked Charter Oak and No. 2 Bishop Amat.
It’s really too bad. The Chargers and Lancers have the skill players good enough to produce deep postseason runs or even walk away with the hardware after Week 14 in their respective divisions. But when put up against teams that are bigger across the board along both lines, that skill talent gets somewhat nullified.
So, to borrow another oft-used phrase: Where’s the beef?
“They’re sitting at home on the couch playing video games and eating Doritos,” veteran Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said. “Big guys are big and fat and that’s all they want to do.”
Guilty as charged. Basically, what Farrar is saying is that our Valley’s precious few big kids are in training to be sportswriters and not NFL players. Although that’s the funny and somewhat true answer, there’s more to it than that.
In the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division, which is made up of five local leagues and one league of small Christian
private schools, size isn’t such a big issue. With its size, Covina will give its opponents fits. Just ask San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow, who after last week’s loss told me, “They’re better up front than we are, so they were throwing us around pretty good.”
But in the Inland Division and Pac-5 divisions, you need both skill and size. Amat and Charter Oak have one and not the other, hence the ceiling.
“Because we play the guys who show up for practice,” Farrar said when I asked him why Charter Oak isn’t bigger. “If you come out and you’re bigger than the guys we have, we’ll give you a damn-good shot to play here.
“If I could order them (big guys) from the Sears catalog, I would.
“There are a couple of girls I tried to recruit on campus. I’ve played a girl kicker before and I would play a girl tackle if she was big enough and mean enough.”
Do schools like Charter Oak have three or four would-be linemen walking around campus doing anything but playing football? Does Amat not appeal to 200-pound Catholic eighth-graders? Who knows.
The only way to find the answer is by going to where the big guys, the ones who play football, are attending school. Think of the biggest teams you’ve seen this year. Where were they from? For me, that answer is the Inland Empire. Therefore the best answer I can come up with to the “Where’s the beef” question is that size is essentially a numbers game.
All hail the Tribune genius for stating the obvious that if you have 4,000 students, then you’re more likely to find the handful of 6-foot-2, 250-pounders you need to build a good football team around. Trouble is, the Valley doesn’t have any schools of that size. But the Inland Empire and Orange County do.
The Valley’s ever-changing demographics also play a big role. Amat’s recruiting base, so to speak … or better yet, the areas Amat pools its talent from do not have the same number of big guys that the Mater Dei or Servite recruiting ground does. And Charter Oak is simply never going to be an Inland Division school enrollment-wise.
All of it leads to one thing: Six weeks from now, we’re going to be talking about the same teams as last year. Amat and Charter Oak, barring a miracle, will be out of the conversation.
Last season, West Covina rode the biggest line in the area to a CIF-SS championship. Although not as big this year, the Bulldogs won’t have anything mammoth to overcome in their division to do it again.
Covina, which arguably has the best across-the-board size around, also figures to be one of the area’s last teams standing and is very likely to be a CIF champ when the smoke clears.
Since early September, we’ve all seen what the top teams in the area can do when things are equal or they have the advantage at the line of scrimmage. But as the days grow shorter, the temperatures drop and the final chapters of this season are written, the reality is that certain teams have sizable problems that lay just around the corner. And the story this year is likely to have an all too familiar ending because of it.
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