By Aram Tolegian
Jordan Robinson is flying under the radar … for now.
The Ayala High School running back/defensive back is well known to coaches in the Sierra League as one of the most dangerous players their teams will face this season.
But outside of that coaching circle, not many other coaches or fans have heard his name as often as they should. That could start changing in a big way on Friday when Robinson and the Bulldogs host two-time defending CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division champion Monrovia. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“We’ve been watching film all week,” Robinson said of Monrovia. “They have athletes, but they’re not unbeatable. I want to just go out there and show our team can compete with these guys.
“They’re ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in your poll and if we go out there and beat them then we’re definitely making a statement that we can compete.”
Even with Monrovia coming to town, the spotlight will also be shining on the Bulldogs, who have gotten plenty of hype this offseason and are ranked No. 8 in the Tribune’s latest area rankings. Monrovia is the No. 1 team in the Pasadena Star-News rankings.
For Monrovia, the expectations are nothing new. But for Ayala, so many expecting such big things is a change from the norm.
“I think it’s right,” Robinson said of the rankings. “We have a nice team. We have athletes. We just didn’t put it together as well as we should have last year. This year, we’re a year older and we’ve been through it. I’m pretty sure we can turn it around.”
Ahh, last year. That’s probably the reason why Robinson isn’t yet on the radar of college recruiters like he should be. There’s no doubt he’s one of the best athletes around, but Ayala’s struggles in the won-loss column may be why so many folks just don’t know it.
Robinson is bent on using his senior season to make up for that. He started last week by rushing for 207 yards and three touchdowns in a 46-17 win over Diamond Bar. For Robinson, it was just a continuation of 2011, in which he ran for over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But now, stats are just as important as wins, because the more Ayala puts itself on the map, the more eyes will be opened to Robinson’s talents.
Beating Monrovia would be a great way to super charge the process.
When Robinson is on offense, he’ll be trying to plow through a Monrovia defense led by the linebacker duo of Colorado-bound George Frazier V and Northwestern-bound Brett Walsh.
When Robinson is playing corner back on defense, he will be trying to cover either Mason Bryant or Anthony Craft, both of whom already have multiple Division I college offers.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you why I don’t have any offers yet,” Robinson said. “I’m not a college coach, so I don’t know exactly why.”
Robinson and his senior classmates went undefeated as freshmen in 2009.
Their success hasn’t translated to the varsity level yet. As sophomores, only a handful of that class was pulled up to varsity, including Robinson, who broke his leg after four games. The team won just four games and was blanked in the Sierra League.
Last year, the Bulldogs won just three games, but at least one of them came in league. This is the ballyhooed class’ final attempt to deliver under the lights on all the promise they showed four years ago.
“It definitely motivates us,” Robinson said. “We’re all together now again and we’re clicking. It can only get better from here.”
“We definitley can compete with the Sierra League. It’s a tough league, but we have the athletes and the skill players to do it. It’s just about putting it all together.”
Damien wide receiver Josh Savage will miss Friday’s season opener against Orange Lutheran due to an undisclosed rules violation, Spartans head coach Greg Gano confirmed late Monday.
Savage projects as one of the top receivers in the area and without him Damien’s chances of upsetting the Lancers took a hit.
Gano said the suspension will be only for one week and Savage will play in Week 2 when the Spartans visit Palm Desert.
Aram’s take: Well, that hurts. The rules violation was of the school variety and not the team variety, if you catch my drift. Although I guess you could consider one in the same. This is really bad timing because it would have been nice to see the Spartans offense at full strength vs. O-Lu.
Charter Oak’s offseason-long quarterback battle between junior Kory Brown and senior Ross Barrera may not be totally over, but Brown will start Friday’s road opener against Roosevelt.
Both quarterbacks are expected to see ample playing time.
“It comes down to Kory is going to start and as the game goes on, I decide who stays and who plays,” Charter Oak head coach Lou Farrar said. “I can’t make that decision until I see how we move the ball on our first series.
“I’m not afraid to play either one and say ‘call the plays and here we go.’”
Brown backed up standout Travis Santiago last season. Barrera was a back up at Bishop Amat last year before transferring in the offseason.
Running back is a little less clear. Donavin Washington figures to be the feature back, but since he starts at corner back on defense his carries may need to be spaced. Khari Garcia, another starting defensive back, also figures in the mix at running back.
West Covina quarterback Jon Najera missed his team’s season opener last Friday against Covina with a knee injury, but Bulldogs head coach Mike Maggiore estimates there’s an 80-percent chance the senior will play this Friday against Loyola.
Sophomore Antonio “Noodles” Hull got the start against Covina and led West Covina to a 31-0 win. If Najera returns, Hull will shift to running back. Maggiore also expects center Raul Gomez, the team’s top lineman, to return this week. Gomez missed the Covina game after having stitches removed from his leg.
With Najera and Gomez back, West Covina should fare a lot better this season against the upper-division Cubs. Loyola had little trouble with a banged up West Covina team in last year’s 35-7 win.
“Last year, they got up on us and we kind of hung our heads a little bit,” Maggiore said. “I just want us to compete. We’ve looked good against Claremont and Covina, but this another test. This is a huge step up. I’m anxious for it.”
You can count Chino Hills High School football coach Derek Bub among the many who were impressed by Bishop Amat’s win over Servite last Friday.
The Huskies and Lancers play this week, and Bub maintains he’s not just saying that Amat was terrific in order to prop up an opponent.
“I’ll tell you what, Amat didn’t just beat them, they owned that game from the first whistle to the last whistle,” Bub said. “I give Bishop Amat a ton of credit. That’s a game you could easily go into and say “it’s Servite, we just want to play around with these guys and be in the game.’
“But they came out and took it to them for four quarters. They have great speed on defense and their skill position players are better than I’ve seen out of them in a while.”
Chino Hills wasn’t too shabby itself, albeit against a considerably lesser opponent in Arlington. The Huskies won 41-20, but led 34-7 at halftime and Arlington’s first-half score came on a interception return for touchdown. Other than that, quarterback Matt Simko was as advertised, throwing five touchdown passes in his Huskies debut.
The Huskies were without Boise St.-bound receiver Jack Austin, who suffered a sprained ankle on a fluke play in practice last week. Austin’s status for Friday remains unclear, according to Bub.
“I have no idea,” Bub said about Austin. “I’m not trying to mess with you, it will be a game-time decision. Obviously, I’m hoping he can go. It’s a pretty ugly sprained ankle.
“We know we have to have Jack Austin. We feel like we’re a better football team with Jack. I was happy with the way we played last week without him, but I think Jack gives you an immediate vertical threat.”
The pointspreads for this week’s games are now posted at Bet It and Sweat it.
Bishop Amat running back/defensive back Dionza Blue picked up an offer from San Diego St. on Sunday.
Blue, a senior, played defensive back the past two seasons and waited behind Jalen Moore before becoming the Lancers’ starting running back this season.
San Diego St. is Blue’s first offer and the Aztecs want him as a defensive back.
Blue ran for 116 yards and a touchdowns in last Friday’s win over Servite. He also played defensive back.
Aram’s take: Blue’s stock has SURGED in the past month. Having such a nice game against Servite certainly helped. I’ve got a feeling there’s plenty more offers to come.