By Fred J. Robledo
South Hills High School football coach Steve Bogan and Damien’s Greg Gano each own four CIF-Southern Section divisional titles, so one can imagine how frustrating it was talking about having to win a game to stay in the playoff hunt, especially when that game is just the Sierra League opener. That’s because Chino Hills (4-1), with nonleague victories over Tesoro and Redlands East Valley, has become a huge league favorite as it prepares for Friday’s game against Claremont (4-1), another school projected to be in the playoff hunt along with Charter Oak (3-2), which visits Ayala (4-1). (To continue, click thread).
South Hills (1-4) is hosting Damien (3-2) at Covina District Field in the league opener Friday following four consecutive losses, which include a 42-27 thumping by West Covina, a 59-6 loss to Tesoro, and a 43-28 loss last week to Los Osos.
In fact, the 42, 43 and 49 points allowed were the most points the Huskies have allowed in a single game this decade, and it all happened in a month’s time.
Although Damien has a winning record, in two games the Spartans had a chance to measure themselves, they were beaten soundly by Bishop Amat (42-7) and JSerra (42-7).
How times have changed for two of the area’s winningest coaches.
“It’s been humbling, it really has,” Gano said of the lopsided losses. “It’s been humbling for Steve too, but nobody’s feeling sorry for us, we’ve got a game on Friday we have to win, and so do they.”
Nonleague records are often misleading because of schedule strength, but it’s hard to make a case that South Hills and Damien are better off for playing tough schedules because they haven’t been competitive in big games.
“We’re in a similar boat,” Gano said. “The loser almost has no chance of making the playoffs, that’s just common sense.
“We’re both struggling, we both need a win, it’s important. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll make the playoffs, but the winner at least has a fighting chance and some momentum, because a win in the first game of league is always important for (your mental makeup).”
Before the season, Gano thought that three or four teams had a shot at the Sierra League title, but not after what Chino Hills has done.
“It would be very surprising if they don’t win league,” he said. “On paper, who they have and who they have beaten, it’s a no-brainer.”
Gano also had some interesting comments about two of the area’s top teams, West Covina and Bishop Amat.
West Covina is off to a 5-1 start and is the No. 1 team in the Southeast Division after beating Rowland 41-17 on Friday.
“They’re a school that flew under the radar and was in the right place at the right time,” Gano said of the Bulldogs, who remained in the Southeast Division while Charter Oak and South Hills moved to the Sierra League and Inland Division. “They’re a school with 3,000 kids that could compete in the Sierra League. They could finish second or better, they really could. (Coach) Mike (Maggiore) has done a great job with them.”
After losing 42-7 to both Bishop Amat and JSerra, Gano wouldn’t mind watching the two go at it.
“I would love to see that game,” Gano said. “The thing about Bishop Amat is (coach Steve) Hagerty’s got that program on the right footing, they have a lot of confidence and they don’t make mistakes. They don’t do anything great or fancy, but they make simple look great.”