By Steve Ramirez
WEST COVINA — The strength of the San Gabriel Valley in football has favored the Eastside in recent years.
That didn’t change Friday..
Former Pomona High School standout Jamal Overton rushed for 82 yards and the East sacked Muir’s Jeffrey Davis three times during the final three minutes to lead the East to a 7-6 victory in the 32nd Hall of Fame Game at West Covina High School.
The East, which rolled to a 40-0 victory last year, won for the eighth time in the past nine meetings.
“I was just thinking if we sack them here, we win,” said Northview’s Chris Auxier, who forced a punt with just over a minute to play when he dropped Davis at his own 42. “When I got that last sack, and I knew we won, it made everything feel so much better.”
HALL OF FAME GAME
East 7, West 6
E: George Johnson 13 run (Jeff Stamp kick)
W: Karl Holmes Jr. 21 pass from Nick Bueno (kick failed)
Up until then, It looked like the West might rule the Valley.
The West, which saw its scoreless streak reach six quarters after it was shut out in the first half,finally caught fire in the third quarter.
Pasadena’s Aaron Simpson ran 31 yards on a fake punt and Nick Bueno followed with a 25-yard run to the East 17. The double-threat quarterback, who led Monrovia to the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division title last season, then came up with the West’s play of the game.
He rolled right on fourth and 14 before tossing to Holmes, who made a leaping catch int he end zone to cut the deficit to 7-6 with 1:03 left in the quarter. The extra-point kick by San Gabriel’s Gilmar Tenes was wide.
The West, after forcing a punt, then went from its 47 to the East 24 before settling for a 31-yard field goal attempt by Tenes. But the snap was low, and forced Bueno to scramble before throwing incomplete.
“No one wants to lose the game,” Bueno said. “We all just picked it up in the second half.”
Overton helped the East score its only points during a 97-yard drive , which covered the last part of the first quarter and most of the second.
Overton, after the East started from its own 3 following an interception by Azusa’s Jose Nunez, had consecutive carries of 15, 14 and 14 yards to push it to the East 48. He then followed with runs of 7, 14 and 11 yards to the West 24 before converting a fourth and 1 from the 15 with a 2-yard run to the 13.
George Johnson, who helped West Covina to the Southeast Division title in the fall,then broke loose from Muir’s Howard Vaughn in the backfield before diving in the end zone following a 13-yard run.
“I give all the credit to the offensive line,” said Overton, who had 73 yards during the drive. “They are the only way I could have done that.”
That eventually set up defensive heroics by the East defense, which after the West got the ball on the East 48 after a punt and face mask penalty, sacked Davis three times to force a punt, which was blocked by Baldwin Park’s Mario Rodriguez to set the East up at the West 30.
The East then ran out the clock to win for the second consecutive season.