By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
With preparations for this fall already under way, the big question around West Covina High School is who will pilot the Bulldogs football team as it tries to defend last year’s CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship. Three-year starting quarterback George Johnson is set to graduate in June and that means the luxury of having an experienced signal caller is no longer afforded on West Covina coach Mike Maggiore. “As a coach, at this point in the game, everything concerns me,” Maggiore said. “It was nice (with George) going into the spring and summer knowing what we had and that we were pretty much set. “I believe in our coaches and the ability that we have in getting our kids ready to play.”
The competition is wide open at this point, with Chris Caballero leading the way after guiding West Covina’s junior varsity team to a 10-0 record last season. Maggiore is also entertaining the idea of trying running back Jimmy Frazier under center.
Don’t expect a winner to be named until right around the first game of the season. Maggiore expects the battle to last well into two-a-days and the auditions begin in May with West Covina hosting several four-way passing competitions.
One thing is for certain, though. Whomever wins the job will have the luxury of handing off to Tribune Player of the Year Chris Solomon and talented backfield mate Aaron Salgado.
Coaches are raving about Solomon’s progress this offseason in the weight room. The soon-to-be senior has gone from 175 pounds at the end of last season to 192 today. He’s squatting 445 pounds and has kept his speed.
Solomon got his first offer of the offseason last week from Colorado and is expected to get another soon from Arizona State.
West Covina’s line, which has several key starters to replace, is also performing well in the weight room, according to Maggiore.
“The kids know if they’re going to play football here, they’re going to lift weights,” Maggiore said.
“They’re not going to go through the motions either, they’re going to lift with a purpose.”
West Covina’s offensive line will likely benefit from a linemen competition the school will host in late June.
Position battles rage at Bonita
West Covina is far from the only place with a big question mark at quarterback. Bonita, which played West Covina in last year’s Southeast Division championship game, is also looking to replace a veteran passer.
For the Bearcats, though, youth may be served by the time it’s all said and done. Coach Eric Podley said his quarterback competition is a three-way battle between two sophomores and a senior. And given Podley’s past history of developing quality signal callers, nobody should be betting on a big drop off in production.
“It will be different in the sense that we’ve never really started a sophomore at quarterback in the years that I’ve been here, but I think there’s a chance that could happen this year,” Podley said. “I think the two sophomores we have that are vying for the position may be some of the most talented players we’ve had at that spot. We had a 10-0 freshman team and both guys were pretty successful there.”
The position wars don’t end at quarterback. Podley must replace a dynamic senior class that will leave a number of holes in plenty of other places.
Bonita loses four out of five linemen and three out of four receivers from last year’s team, but looks strong at running back where junior-to-be Reggie Turner leads a talented group that runs deep on experience.
Podley said his team may do more passing competitions this offseason, but will modify things so that there are more one-day competitions as opposed to two days.
“I think the players we have know how to win, but I don’t think they know how to win at the varsity level yet,” Podley said. “There’s going to be some growing up and seasoning that has to be done.”