The Scouting Guru has been all over the San Gabriel Valley and beyond, and like always, he’s offered to share his thoughts, free of charge. Don’t hate, enjoy it for what it’s worth, which is one man’s opinion on the talent in the San Gabriel Valley.
Thursday night at Covina District Field, West Covina and South Hills will lock horns in one of the longest running rivalries in the San Gabriel Valley. And for many football, there are football games and then there is West Covina vs. South Hills. Now some fans might argue that the Smudge Pot is bigger, or that the Charter Oak vs. Glendora game is very important for the talent on the field, and others might argue that Covina vs. Northview deserves to be used in the same breathe. And their could be some validity to it. But, as far as I am concerned, West Covina vs. South Hills ranks right at the top of the list. (To continue, click thread).
And there are several reasons for this. First off, both schools reside in the city of West Covina and are separated by a mire 3 miles. Second, it always produces compelling storylines and subplots. Third, you have two of the better coaching staffs in the area matching wits against each other with great athletes on both sidelines.
For the past six years, I’ve had a front row seat to this rivalry as a member of the coaching staff at South Hills. It’s been a seat that I’ve enjoyed for every minute with great memories that will last a lifetime. So I’d thought I would give you the bloggers an inside view of the game from someone that has been in the “line of fire.” Maybe it will help you give a better perspective on the Thursday night’s game at CDF.
My first year was in 2004 and when it came to West Covina week on campus, it was pretty intense. Both teams were coming into the game with some momentum. South Hills had players like Tobi Umodu, Kevin Mort and Brian Slover in their junior year with lineman such as Jacob Calderon and Kawika Householder on the offensive line. West Covina had future NFL star Walter Thurmond and a sophomore QB by the name of George Munoz (who definitely had some swag to him).
To this day, the 2004 game is one of my most memorable games to have ever been a part of. Late In the first quarter, Mort was knocked out of the game (and let’s just say that I am very thankful that West Covina has moved to field turf… let’s just leave it at that) and head coach Steve Bogan had to move wide receiver Michael Schneider to quarterback. Coach Bogan’s call sheet of 90+ plays shrunk down to 9-10 plays. And that’s all it took as the Huskies’ offensive line just man-handled West Covina’s defensive line. One of my last memories of the game was seeing on one play a big wall of white shirts moving forward with RB Marquise Winbush just running as hard as he could. South Hills ended up winning that night 17-10.
West Covina got the last word in on the rivalry in the CIF-SS Division VII playoffs that year when the defeated South Hills 17-6. It was the night that Thurmond took command of the game right from the start. He showed why he was Player of the Year in Division VII. That game provided one of the lasting lessons for the players on South Hills that were coming back the next season. Practice is everything. I felt that South Hills didn’t have a great week of practice and it should that night. The loss provided a lot of hunger for the Huskies in the off-season to becoming one of the better teams in 2005.
The 2005 game also sticks out in my mind. I have been a ton of South Hills practices. None could match the week of West Covina in 2005. Usually at any HS practice, you can get a couple of kids screwing around, and the focus among the starters in fine. That was not the case in 2005. The minute practice started on Monday thru walk-thru’s on Friday afternoon – there was no goofing around. There no was no joking around. Everyone was serious from the first minute to the last. In my eyes, it was the single greatest week of practice that I have ever experienced at South Hills. A lot of the players on that SH squad remember the feeling of 2004 defeat in the finals and just didn’t want that feeling again.
If anyone tells you that special teams in not important in the game of football, all you have to do is put in the tape of the 2005 game to prove them wrong. And if anyone tells you that South Hills had a soft defense, that was dispelled after this game as well. A block punt by Brian Slover – that turned into a scoop and score by Ricky Cortez – and the performances of Fred Glaster and Marquise Winbush helped the Huskies defeat West Covina 28-13. It proved to be a water-shed moment for both schools. West Covina would finish third in the league and get eliminated by Orange HS in the first round. South Hills would end up winning the San Antonio League and defeating the same Orange HS team for the school’s fifth CIF-SS football championship.
The 2006 game had a interesting dynamic to it. First off, it was the feeling amongst many in the community that this West Covina team had it’s best team EVER. And with so many players from the 2005 team gone due to graduation, it was the feeling that if there was a time that West Covina could put the hammer of the Huskies – this was the year.
And after Rowland defeated South Hills (for the first time ever in the school’s history) a week before the game – it appeared that the observers could be right. An interesting subplot to the game was that West Covina had changed it’s offense from the Wing-T to spread offense. After a narrow loss to Mater Dei at Mt. SAC in the season opener, the Bulldogs had rode a lot of momentum coming into the game.
If you ask coach Bogan which team he enjoyed coaching the most, it was the 2006 team. And I happened to agree with it. There were new coaches to the staff (which included new offensive line coach Albert Rodriguez – who I believe is currently the best OL coach in the area, bar none) and very young players. Players like Damon Kuklinski, Brandon Parham, John Earnest, Kebin Umodu who become big-time players for South Hills the next season. And then there was quarterback Nick Lamaison, He was the back-up to Kevin Mort for two seasons (which made him feel like the Jim Sorgi of the area) – but this was his team now and he was improving each and every week.
One of the two memories of the game came at halftime with South Hills leading 14-0. In the locker room after coach Bogan had gotten done speaking to his players, Lamaison jogged his way over to the exit doors and was jumping around like a wrestler ready to lay the hammer on the wrestling mat. His words to me were simple, “I just want to get back out there and play some more football coach.” Talk about a kid that was in the moment.
The other memory was that the South Hills defense was so dominate in the first half, West Covina changed it’s offense for the second half (and for the rest of the season) and went back to the Wing-T. It didn’t matter when the night ended, South Hills had defeated West Covina 23-3 en route to another San Antonio League title.
The 2007 game has a special meaning to yours truly personally and the reason was simple – it was the FSN Prime Ticket HS Game of the Week. For that reason alone is the reason why this rivalry trumps another rivalry in the area. When your game hits national TV, well, enough said. As was usually the case, both teams had a lot of momentum coming into the game and it was one of the most anticipated games of the year.
It all changed for me when I arrived at CDF for the game. I took a long look around CDF that night well before the game started and saw all the sky-jacks with TV cameras on them and the production trucks inside CDF and the first thing I told coach Bogan when he asked what I thought, all I could tell him was “Darnest thing that I’ve ever seen.”
So many memories for me from that game. One of the most lasting memories happened before the game. During the stretching period, I went over to RB Dorian Wells and asked him if he was doing Ok. He said he was fine and asked me “How many yards do I have to have to get to 1000?” I told him he needed 130 yards. When I asked him if he was going to do it that night, he said, “I’ll get that in the first half… I promise!” I shook my head and walked away telling myself “Boy oh boy, this is kid going to put on a show.” And a show he did, amassing 280 yards of total offense (by himself) – and scoring 4 touchdowns, en route to being named player of the game as South Hills defeated West Covina 35-24.
The game also showcased two other big-time players, South Hills junior QB Cameron Deen and West Covina sophomore RB Ricky Johnson. Both used the game to future successes for both schools.
The 2008 game had a lot of subplots. And there was a lot riding for South Hills. A win and they would be outright champions of the San Antonio League and would have been seeded no lower that third for the CIF-SS playoffs. A loss (mixed in with the fact that they lost the coin-toss with Rowland and West Covina) and they would enter the game as a third-place team from the league.
The lesson from the 2008 game that I learned was that injuries are a bigger factor in this sport than in any other sports. To say that SH was hurting would be kid an understatement. Several key injuries on both sides of the ball would force coach Bogan and he is staff to start a lot of underclassman. The Bulldogs were the more hungrier team that night and won on the final drive of the game 14-7. Both teams would end up making it to the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS playoffs.
Last year’s game had some interesting moments that I will take with me. First, I’ve never been to a more intense JV game than the game last year between these two schools. From the moment, the ball kicked off, both teams just took it to each other. South Hills would end up winning the game. But one the memory of that day took place right after the game was over. Jacob Shirley – who had transferred from West Covina to South Hills – was leaning against the fence at the enterence of the field just watching the game quietly when several West Covina players came over and let’s just say that they were talking some stuff to him. He just stood there and didn’t say a word. He was the picture of calm and didn’t let any of the West Covina players get to him.
The motto of the week that coach Bogan had for the team during the week was very simple… “Do your job!” That’s all the coaches said during the week and it was the number one key to game that was written on the chalkboard before the game. And boy did they do their job. The Huskies amassed 400 yards in total offense and defeated West Covina 27-6. Geoff Vaughns added his name to the list of players that had their best game against West Covina.
Those are some of my memories, I know that many of you have memories of this game as well. I would love for you to share them with us.
When people ask me why the game is special, it’s simple. The main reason why this game is so special is because of the people that encompass both schools. First you have two coaches that are really good friends in Steve Bogan and Mike Maggoire. They have a lot of respect for each other and you will never hear them say that they hate each other. They have assistant coaches that are among the best in the business.
But, if there was one reason why this game is special is because of the respect both teams have for each other. There is no hatred when these teams play each other. The players have a lot of respect for one another and they will see each other during the season. It’s a game for bragging rights. You win the game, you get to walk around the community with your chest out because your team won it on the field. There is no trophy that is awarded at the end of the night. It’s a shake of the hands for one another…a sign of mutual respect. And besides, isn’t that what high school football is about?
My involvement with this game is absent with my other obligations that I have now-a-days. So – just like the many of you in the stands – I will be watching this one and seeing who will be the new hero’s at the end of the night. Which player will put their personal stamp on this rivalry when all is said and done. It’ll be fun to watch. It’ll be the type of game that Bill Dunn would have loved to have been a part of.
Thursday night will mark the first night that the late Bill Dunn will not be at a South Hills vs. West Covina game. For people like myself, it will just not seem right. The reason is simple… Bill Dunn was just quality people. He loved football in the area… and he really loved West Covina HS. I always made it a point to seek Bill out before the game (as well as after the game) and we would just talk about life in general. With each conversation, I could understand why their was a love between the players and coach Dunn. He handled himself with dignity and class… something that some coaches in the area could do a better job of.
I know Bill will be at the game tonight… enjoying it for the best seat in the house… in heaven with his West Covina gear on cheering on his boys. And we would not want it any other way. A tip of the cap to the fine gentleman from Covina!!!
Enjoy the game!