By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
The coaching staffs for the upcoming Hall of Fame All-Star Game have had several practices to get familiar with their teams. And as you might expect, they have liked what they’ve seen. The game, which will take place on June 24 at West Covina High School, features the top football talent from the east and west sides of the Valley in the form of recently graduated seniors. The East won last year’s game 40-0 and leads the series 19-10-2.
Monrovia’s Ryan Maddox was selected to coach the West after he guided the Wildcats to a 12-2 record and the CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division title.
Maddox gets the luxury of having several key members from last year’s team on his roster, including Star-News Player of the Year quarterback Nick Bueno.
“The first couple of days was trying get them to learn something new,” Maddox said. “Last Friday, it was the first time we were in pads and practicing in the stadium and we looked decent.”
Bueno is joined at quarterback by Muir’s Jeffrey Davis. They will have plenty of options to throw to, thanks to a dynamic receiving corps that includes Arizona State-bound Muir receiver Karl Holmes Jr., Monrovia’s Jay Henderson and Arroyo tight end Sam Torres.
The East also likely will enjoy success when it takes to the air. Walnut’s Aubrey Coleman (6-foot-6) and Bishop Amat’s Wallace Gonzalez (6-foot-5) figure to present matchup problems for the West’s defensive backs.
“It’s the first time we’ve had to look up to receivers in a long time,” Thomas said. “Our receiving corps is pretty talented.”
Getting them the ball is the duty of East quarterbacks George Johnson (West Covina), Mario Rodriguez (Baldwin Park), Andrew Cameron (Diamond Bar) and Michael Ball (Rowland). Bonita’s Garrett Pendleton was selected to play in the game and practiced with the team last week, but suffered a broken hand over the weekend and will not participate.
The East has been on quite a roll in the series, but that doesn’t mean too much to Thomas, who personally has not won the game despite being involved in it twice already. As a player on the East, Thomas’ team tied the West in 1986. As a coach in 2001, Thomas’ team was beaten by the West.
“I’ve been affiliated with this game twice and I haven’t won,” Thomas said.
“All I can say is that coach Maddox does a great job. He’s a CIF champion.
“We’re battling against him and his coaching staff.”
Maddox knows recent history hasn’t been kind but he thinks his defense may be fast enough to stack up to the East’s offensive size and speed this year, thus possibly keeping the game close.
“I think they know (about the history),” Maddox said of his players. “I think that’s a little extra motivation for them.
“We might be huge defensively, but we’ve got some speed. I think that will help us. We’re going to have to take advantage of what we do have. I think we can be pretty good, but we’re still in the beginning phases. But we like what we’ve seen thus far.”