By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
West Covina High School freshman sensation Antonio “Noodles” Hull has been pulled up to the varsity football team and will likely make his debut on Friday night when the Bulldogs visit Los Altos in a key Hacienda League game for both teams. Hull, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound quarterback, made a name for himself during a dazzling youth football league career with the Compton Vikings in rapper Snoop Dogg’s league. Hull was not able to play at the varsity level until he turned 14, which he did recently. Hull had thrown for 442 yards and six touchdowns, and rushed for 384 yards and six scores in five games at the freshman level.
“We don’t know how much he’s going to play,” West Covina coach Mike Maggiore said. “He’s been taking snaps in practice to see what he’s comfortable with. Some of it looked really good. But some of it you worry about a young kid making mistakes. We don’t want our quarterbacks to turn the ball over, that’s for sure.
“He’s going to be tremendous, but we’re really not expecting a whole lot this year. He’s excited and anxious. He feels like he can compete.”
Senior Chris Caballero and junior Jonathan Najera have split time under center this season for the Bulldogs. West Covina’s offense certainly isn’t struggling, as evidenced by the team’s 40 points-per-game average in league.
The Bulldogs, at 6-1 overall and 3-0 in league, are bidding for a second straight CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship. Winning the Hacienda would go a long way toward doing that, and beating Los Altos would be another big step.
“I think they play tremendously hard and they’re a very good running team,” Maggiore said of the Conquerors. “And their quarterback is much improved over last year. They appear to be really well-coached and they play with a lot of intensity.
“It’s a senior group that won a league championship as freshmen when they were in the Miramonte League. I don’t think they’re too surprised with themselves.”
Los Altos (6-2, 2-2) blew a golden chance to make Friday’s game with West Covina a potential league title showdown by blowing a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter last week against Bonita. Now, the Conquerors are among a handful of Hacienda teams desperate to bolster their position in the standings and secure a playoff berth.
“I think at this point in the season, in our league, it seems like there’s five or six teams that can win on any given Friday,” Maggiore said. “I think we’ll see a team on Friday playing at a high level with a high level of enthusiasm, like they did at Bonita. I think at Bonita they couldn’t sustain that enthusiasm.”
Chargers seeking revenge
Claremont’s win last year over Charter Oak on homecoming night has not been forgotten by the Chargers, who will look to return the favor when they visit the Wolfpack on their homecoming night.
“Last year, their quarterback (Daniel Kessler), we made his career in one game at our school,” Chargers coach Lou Farrar said. “He was super hot that night and the receiver he was throwing to that night was super hot.
“It’s a league game. All we’re looking at is it’s our third league game. They’re going to be excited about their homecoming. They’ll be a fired up football team, I know that.”
Kessler shredded the Chargers for 393 yards and three touchdowns last year, but he’s since graduated. Charter Oak will have to deal with Gabe Schaper under center and a host of other Wolfpack weapons.
Claremont had better be able to score, because Charter Oak is putting up huge numbers under the guidance of senior quarterback Travis Santiago. Charter Oak is averaging 41.8 points per game this season and that could mean big trouble for a Claremont defense that’s allowing 26 a game.
But still, at 0-2 in league, Farrar knows the Wolfpack will be a very desperate team trying to salvage their playoff hopes on Friday night.
“They’re very dangerous,” Farrar said. “Their season started rough when that quarterback transferred to Colony. They’re used to being in tough situations and making a rally.”
Bonita eyes momentum
With one big fourth-quarter rally last week to beat Los Altos, Bonita has thrust itself back into the playoff race in the Hacienda League. The Bearcats, at 3-4 overall and 1-2 in league, still have a lot of work to do, but can take another big step toward getting into the Southeast Division playoffs by knocking off Walnut (2-6, 2-2) on Friday.
“I was feeling like I was 6 minutes and 30 seconds away from unemployment last week,” Bearcats coach Eric Podley said of the time on the clock in last week’s fourth quarter when his team trailed 28-14 before winning 35-28. “It definitely helped getting the win. It was a long time between wins. And we’re starting to get our players back. At one point we were without eight starters.”
One of those starters who is slowly getting back to health is standout receiver Garrett Horine, who is expected back this week after missing time with a sprained ankle. Bonita’s offense becomes that much more dangerous when Horine is in the game and can test opposing defenses deep.
Walnut and Los Altos are a half-game ahead of Bonita in the standings, but both of those teams have played one more league game than the Bearcats. If Bonita can beat Walnut, it will move into a more favorable playoff position by overtaking the Mustangs in the standings. And with Los Altos a heavy underdog this week against West Covina, it’s possible that by Saturday morning the Bearcats could be in third place.
“Whether last week was the spark remains to be seen,” Podley said.
“We’re hoping it is. They did gain some confidence with that.”