By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
The West Covina High School football team is running its way to a CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship. What type of running? Well that depends on which ball carrier of the several that Bulldogs coach Mike Maggiore has to choose from is handling the rock. There’s speedster Beejay Lee. Then there’s bruiser Aaron Salgado. There’s also Jimmy Frazier and Charles Tucker, who combine a little of Salgado’s bruising style with a hint of Lee’s speed. Last but not least, the star of the group is Chris Solomon, who has breakaway speed, good power and cutback ability. With a group so talented, it’s no wonder that West Covina (12-1) will take on Bonita (12-1) for the division title at 7 p.m. Friday at Walnut High. (To continue, click thread
“We kind of knew going into the season that we were going to be strong at running back,” Maggiore said. “I’ve never coached a group of guys like this. You maybe get one or two of them that are good at one time. As a coach, you’re extremely comfortable giving the ball to any of these guys.”
Solomon has gotten it the most this season, and he’s made defenses pay to the tune of 1,790 yards and 20 touchdowns. Only a junior, Solomon has become the Bulldogs’ go-to back and he’s delivered in the biggest games.
In West Covina’s first game against Bonita, Solomon ran for 190 yards and three touchdowns. He also took a kickoff back 98 yards for a score. Lee added 78 yards and two touchdowns in that game, and also took a kickoff back for a touchdown.
“I knew we had a lot of running backs; we always called ourselves the USC of high school football,” Lee said.
“But I didn’t know we were going to be this good. For all of our running backs to be this good, it’s incredible. I didn’t expect this to happen at all.”
For a team that prides itself on the run and doing things with brute force, the Bulldogs can pile up points so fast that you’d think they were a finesse passing team.
Against Diamond Bar, the Bulldogs had six touchdown drives that took less than a minute. That night, Salgado joined Solomon in running wild; the 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore had 136 yards and two scores.
“I’m just trying to protect the middle and make sure that Chris and Beejay get their eight-to-10 yards per rush,” said Salgado, who typically finds himself being a lead blocker.
“I’m usually just trying to get the first down on third-and-2 or third-and-4, but if anything were to break out like in the Diamond Bar game, then that’s just good line play right there.”
To a man, every West Covina back says none of their success would be possible were it not for the horses clearing the way in front of them. West Covina’s offensive line has grounded opposing fronts so well that the running attack averages a staggering 340 yards rushing per game.
“This year’s offensive line has been outstanding,” Solomon said. “Last year I thought was going to be our best offensive line, but this year’s line has shown me they’re way better than last year’s line.”
As with any great offense in a championship setting, there will be no secret as to what means West Covina will use in order to beat Bonita and hoist its second CIF title in seven years. All of West Covina’s opponents have known what’s coming, but none has been able to stop it. Solomon wonders whether Bonita’s second chance will be any different than the first.
“Bonita knows what we run,” Solomon said. “We are a run-first team. It’s going to be run, run, run, pass.
“But can Bonita stop it?”