By Aram Tolegian
Local prep football fans will be hard-pressed to find a better collection of skill players on the field at one time than what they’ll see at Rowland High School on Friday night when the Raiders host West Covina in a Hacienda League showdown that will go a long way toward determining the league champion. “If you like speed, it will be a good place to be,” West Covina coach Mike Maggiore said. “There will be a lot of speed on the field, so hopefully we can play some defense.” For West Covina, the explosiveness comes in the form of a wave of running backs capable of breaking a touchdown run on any given carry. For Rowland, it starts with dynamic quarterback Michael Ball and continues with a dangerous group of receivers. “It’s been awhile since both schools have hooked up with so many quality athletes,” Rowland coach Craig Snyder said. “It’s going to be a fun football game. Both teams have their strong points, and we just have to hope they have more weak points than we do.” (to continue, click thread).
Both teams enter with 4-1 records and opened league last week with easy wins. Last year’s game was no contest, with West Covina winning 32-10. But Rowland was without Ball, who’d suffered a broken collarbone two games prior.
“It feels great to be back out there,” Ball said. “When I got hurt, me and the team were down. My parents were down. The school was down. We kept talking about next year, next year. Now, next year is here and we’re all excited.”
Ball has lived up to the hype thus far. The senior has been burning teams with his arms and legs, as evidenced by his 328 yards and eight touchdowns rushing to go with 853 yards and eight touchdowns through the air.
For West Covina, the sight of another multifaceted quarterback should make Maggiore cringe, given what Glendora’s Chad Jeffries did to the Bulldogs’ defense earlier this season. West Covina won the game, but Jeffries totaled 250 yards in the air and 72 on the ground.
“I’m a little worried about it,” Maggiore said. “He’s (Ball) a little bit quicker, a little bit more athletic than Jeffries.
“He presents a lot of problems, and there’s no question I’m worried about things breaking down. We can do a great job on him and he’ll still make big plays.
“Usually, if you miss a tackle, you give up an extra five or 10 yards. In this game, if you miss a tackle, it’s going to be seven points.”
Ball’s chances to burn West Covina may be limited, though, if Rowland can’t get the Bulldogs’ offense off the field. West Covina has six players with more than 100 yards rushing this season. The running game is led by junior Chris Solomon’s 767 yards and six touchdowns.
“We have one Michael (Ball) and they have three (or more) weapons at running back,” Snyder said.
“You think you’ve got them stopped and they break a big run. I’ve seen them stopped at the line of scrimmage and they make a big play and score.”
Given the amount of firepower on the field, there could be any number of heroes if the game is decided by a big play in crunch time. Ball knows that could be him, but he’s not about to discount any of the West Covina playmakers.
“They have a whole team of athletes,” Ball said. “I know for a fact it’s going to come down to inches, who’s more disciplined and who makes the bigger plays.
“It’s going to come down to the wire, to the very end.”