Hall of Fame Game Tonight: East coach Dale Ziola confident his secondary can hold up vs. Guerrero/Rivera QB combo for West

Robledo’s Prediction: East 42, West 14

What: San Gabriel Valley Hall of Fame Game
Who: East vs. West
Where: West Covina, High School
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

There’s absolutely no secret what the West team is going to try to do in Friday’s Hall of Fame All-Star Game in order to get some respect back for its side of the Valley. And, of course, it’s also no secret what the East will try to do to keep its recent string of series dominance in tact.

The top recently graduated high school football seniors will renew the East vs. West rivalry tonight at West Covina High. Introductions are 7 p.m. and kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

When rosters for the game were announced earlier this month, the huge advantage the West had at quarterback was glaring. Tribune Player of the Year Steven Rivera of Arroyo and Star-News Player of the Year Andy Guerrero of San Gabriel combined to throw for 6,669 yards and 67 touchdowns last season.

Now teammates, both quarterback have been very vocal about getting the West back some respect after the East increased its series lead to 20-10-2 with a 7-6 win last season. It’s a sentiment that has obviously trickled down to the rest of the roster.

“I definitely think we have the right approach and attitude about the game,” said West coach Jude Oliva, who led San Gabriel to a 9-5 record last season. “A lot of the kids have a great understanding of the history of this game and know the West hasn’t been successful the last couple years. They’ve come in here and have been talking about trying to end the streak.”

Wisely, Oliva is making no bones about his team’s desire to air it out tonight and ride the arms of Guerrero and Rivera as far as they can. That means a host of West weapons should see plenty of chances to make big plays.

Muir running back Tairen Owens and Monrovia’s Marquise Bias headline the backfield. Monrovia all-purpose threat De’Shawn Ramirez and San Gabriel speedster Alex Villalobos could have huge nights if Guerrero and Rivera have their way.

Trouble is, East coach Dale Ziola said his team is well aware of the firepower the West has stockpiled and will look to counteract it with a talented secondary and fierce pass rush. Ziola led Los Altos to a remarkable turnaround in his first season, taking the program from 0-10 in 2010 to 8-4 last season.

“One of the parents had mentioned that they’re (the West) going to be going no huddle and how we better get in shape,” Ziola said. “The way you stop the no huddle is to force incomplete passes. I think we have the defensive backs to stop routes, get in people’s faces and disrupt timing so much that we can afford to put our linebackers on their quarterbacks.

“Our plan is to keep their receivers where they’re supposed to be.”

It’s easy to see why Ziola is confident in his secondary. Charter Oak’s Herman Akins is a hybrid who can run with receivers or play near the line. Bonita’s Garrett Horine has East coaches thinking he might be the best player on the field. Rowland’s Terry Ford and West Covina’s Lonzel Barnett are so fast and quick that it’s hard to imagine anyone finding room on them.

And when the East has the ball, it will be using its run game to also play defense by eating the clock and keeping Guerrero and Rivera off the field.

“We expect to play very physical,” Ziola said. “They’re talking about speed on the West side, but I’ve seen the size of their defense on their roster and I’ve seen the size of the guys we have and the running backs we have, so we’re going to be a ground and pound football team. The boys we have on this side give us a big advantage to go out and do that.”

The East’s backfield is downright frightening. There’s speed and quickness in West Covina’s Jimmy Frazier and Azusa’s Desmond Reed. There’s a bruiser in Los Altos’ Justin Fa’aola. There’s a combo of speed and physicality in Glendora’s Corey Victoria and Bonita’s Cameron Griffin.

“All the running backs expect to have a good night,” Ziola said of his running backs. “There’s nobody out there expecting to relinquish what the East has done in the past. They’re all expecting to get their fair share of carries and do great things with it.”

If the West is to win, it may have to force a faster tempo than the East wants to play. And there’s no better way of doing just that than by getting Guerrero and Rivera off early and possibly a lead a on the scoreboard.

“They’re both great at passing the ball and using their feet,” Oliva said of his QB tandem “We kind of have a little mixture of run and pass stuff for them depending on what the East is doing defensively. It’s not a surprise, we’ll throw the ball. We definitely have got some guys who can play.”

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  • I’m interested in seeing if the West’s O-line has gelled in time. In may be tough to protect after so few practices.How’s the East’s pass rush? I know you’re not suppose to blitz, but it happened a few times when I played. I played in the HOF game a looong time ago, so the rules may have changed.

  • There is no restriction on blitzing in the Hall of Fame Game. Never has been that I recall. That’s why some years there are vicious sacks.

  • I played center for the East. There was back then,prolly before your time. ’89.

  • QB Coach

    This should be a great night. there will be a lot of quality young men out that will be playing their last game of football.

    Thank you for the joy and memories you have brought many of us in the valley.

  • green pastures aka “El Gato Monte”

    Fred are you CRAZY lol… Gun shy Billy and mediocre Shane are not going to do anything…With all the speed of the West; if the line holds up, it could be the opposite. Right now I don’t see much speed on the east side, however they will have the advantage up Front. How will the East Handle Owens, Bias, Ramirez. and especially Guerro? Rivera can throw, but Guerro, can get loose and is tough. I Think the east is going to have problems because their QB’s are not good. I’ve seen Livingston fold 2 years straight. He can’t play against elite comp. Shane has heart, but I just don’t see him as a threat. Well we will see tomorrow. I beat the east my year… So My west siders will come through.

    West 28
    East 14

  • Disagree with the comments about Billy The Kid and Shane. They’ll be just fine.

    Also disagree with Fred’s score. Rivera and Guerrero could get busy in a game like this. Arms and legs, they can create. That’s huge.

  • SEMHS FAN 3481

    I always look forward to watching this game, have been for a few years now.

    Hopefully the WEST team can prove their worth on the field.

    Who is considered the “Home” team?

  • green pastures aka “El Gato Monte”

    This game is a battle of opposites.

    The west normally has better skill players With Monrovia, Muir, PHS, but the line is normally small with RHL,MVL,MTVW, and Pacific league lines.

    The east noramlly doesn’t have big speed, but they have the best line…with SHills, BA, Wesco…much larger division schools participating.

    The west will need big plays, and get off the field by limited 3rd down conversions. They will also need to block well on the PAT or Field goal att

    The east will need to sustain drives, and get to the Rivera and Guerrero. If those two get time, someone is going to get open.

  • Lancers9

    My brother played for the East. His name is Michael Panossian and he is our school’s famous #77. it is funny how he isn’t even mentioned in this article by Ziola. He played outside linebacker and was the starter. They kept boasting at practice about how strong he was and fast, and how he would be the ONE to take down the Quarterback, and he did, many times. 4 times to be exact!!!! He forced a fumble and had 12 tackles. Did anyone else do that? NOPE!!! In these articles I keep seeing the same names over and over again. Yes, Western Christian is a small school, yeah, it is a private school, and yes, we are a D12 school. My brother is the best of the best, actually even better. C’mon people look outside the box. He is the first to ever make it from Western Christian. He received 2 football scholarships so far, and they will continue to roll in. Coaches need to promote their football players, guess that is his only down side. By the way, he is rated a D1 football player.