WHITTIER — Dominant isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.
In fact, rather than use words, how about I suggest you think of the image of a lion hunting down a three-legged gazelle to eat for dinner?
That’s probably the best way to describe what the West Covina High School football team did to La Serna in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship.
Like a lion deciding it’s hungry when a gazelle happens to stroll by, West Covina versus La Serna was over before it started. The Bulldogs got off the bus at a stadium not big enough to house their fans, to play on a field that was supposed to give their opponent a better chance and ran roughshod over La Serna to the tune of a 84-21 final score. The 84 points were a record for a CIF championship game.
“Is this real?” West Covina defensive end Justen Meaders asked out loud on the sidelines during the early stages of the rout.
You can’t blame Meaders for wondering that. The entire first half was a “pinch me” moment for West Covina’s fans, players and coaches. On its way to a 49-7 lead early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs were scoring, on average, every two minutes.
In that time span, they passed the ball only twice. Both went for touchdowns with one of them coming from running back Chris Solomon on a 68-yard halfback pass to Lonzel Barnett … two plays after Jimmy Frazier’s 62-yard touchdown run was negated by a holding penalty.
Don’t feel bad for Frazier, though. He got his. When La Serna scored its first touchdown to briefly make it 28-7, Frazier took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown. As for a playing on natural grass instead of the Bulldogs’ home surface of FieldTurf?
“Not a problem,” Frazier said.
Championship games aren’t supposed to be so easy. Nor are the playoffs. West Covina scored more points in each successive round than the previous. The Bulldogs’ margin of victory in the postseason was 30, 43, 29 and 63 points. You can’t even accuse West Covina of running up the score because it only passed the ball THREE TIMES in the game and the fourth quarter was played with a running clock!
The best part about West Covina’s back-to-back Southeast Division championships is the way the Bulldogs have done it. Head coach Mike Maggiore and his staff have taken a boring style of football and made it exciting. How else can you explain 84 points in a championship game while only throwing the ball three times?
There was nothing complex about West Covina did to its opponents this season (and last). It was simple smashmouth running football that put up points so quickly that a spread offense would blush. On defense, it was pressure football at the line of scrimmage in front of a secondary that either laid lumber if a ball carrier got to them or simply intercepted whatever came their way.
Maggiore and his staff have no doubt put in place a system that plays to the talent on hand. It fits perfectly with the type of hard-nosed kids who wear the Bulldogs uniform. And who needs the pass anyway when you’ve got three running backs with over 1,000 yards rushing?
Friday’s score and how it happened was so outrageous that it will no doubt get CIF’s attention. Time for a division change perhaps? Well, it’s only natural for media types to start speculating about how a team would fare against better competition in a higher division. But on Friday night, this sportswriter found himself wondering how West Covina would fare against the Packers, let alone the Inland Division.
For years, West Covina was considered by many to be the Valley’s sleeping giant. After three CIF titles in eight years, the giant is clearly awake. And now it might be on to bigger and better things.
Last year, Maggiore and his staff said goodbye to players like quarterback George Johnson, all-purpose star Beejay Lee and All-Area linebacker Maurice Dupleasis. This year, they’ll lose reigning Tribune Player of the Year Solomon, defensive stalwart Meaders and speedster Frazier.
It matters not. There’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings to step in. That’s just how it goes when you become an elite program. And in case anybody was wondering before Friday’s game, West Covina is an elite program and there’s 84 reasons why you’d better believe it.
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