By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
With Charles Tucker, Chris Solomon, Beejay Lee and a handful of other capable running backs in the West Covina High School backfield, Bulldogs quarterback George Johnson shouldn’t feel much pressure during the opening days of practice in preparation for the Sept. 3 opener at home against Covina. (To continue, click thread).
But that doesn’t mean the third-year starter won’t be a big part of the Bulldogs’ plans, despite throwing for just 959 yards and five touchdowns as a junior.
“I feel calmer, like I know the offense better and what’s expected of me,” Johnson said. “I’ve been in the system long enough that I should be expected to lead – it’s my senior season.”
Like Bulldogs coach Mike Maggiore explained, it’s not always about the offensive numbers – managing the offense and not making mistakes is just as vital.
“His (Johnson’s) sophomore year, we knew right away what he was capable of,” Maggiore said. “We didn’t throw a lot that year, but he had only one interception the entire season.
“Last year he only turned the ball over three times, which are important (statistics). You don’t necessarily need a quarterback to win every game for you, but you don’t want them losing games either.”
Johnson, just 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, isn’t your prototypical quarterback. In fact, he may be more dangerous with his feet than with his arm.
“He came to the school as a freshman not really having a position,” Maggiore said. “He would probably be our best receiver if he played there. He can also play fullback and tight end because he loves contact. He could be a linebacker or safety.
“The bottom line for us is that he understands the game extremely well, and we’re fortunate to have a starting quarterback with 25 starts under his belt.”
With the Bulldogs moving into the newly formed Hacienda League, which also includes Diamond Bar, Diamond Ranch, Bonita, Los Altos, Rowland and Walnut, and with nonleague games against Venice, South Hills and Glendora, Maggiore doesn’t want his offense to be too one-dimensional.
Maggiore knows they can run, and has an offensive line he expects big things from, but balance has to be part of the equation, which is where Johnson comes in.
“We’re going to move him around a little more than we have in the past,” Maggiore said. “He’s going to have the option to run or throw. Some games we might have 25 pass plays and he might only throw 15. That’s because we trust that he has a good enough idea by now of what is necessary to get first downs and win football games.”
There aren’t too many third-year starting quarterback in the Valley, so Maggiore wants Johnson to take advantage of his experience.
“He’s had the best offseason he’s ever had,” Maggiore said. “That shows a lot of leadership right there. He’s a competitor who we expect big things from, there is no doubt about that. His biggest asset is going to be leading us to win football games, whether he’s throwing, passing or making good decisions; that’s his job as the quarterback of our football team.”