By Steve Ramirez
WEST COVINA - The 33rd San Gabriel Valley Hall of Fame All-Star Game has had an East flavor over the years, and that didn’t change Friday.
But the West died hard.
Former Los Altos High School quarterback Shane Virnala accounted for 207 yards and a touchdown and the East held off a late West charge for 46-34 victory at West Covina High School.
West Covina’s Jimmy Frazier earned East MVP honors after rushing for 81 yards and a touchdown. Frazier and Azusa’s Desmond Reed ran for scores of 42 and 45 yards, respectively, to secure the win.
Monrovia’s DeShawn Ramirez accounted for two touchdowns, including an 86- yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter to lead the West.
Arroyo’s Steven Rivera threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
“We take pride in it,” Virnala said. “I don’t know what the record it is, but the East has had the upper hand. So yes, we take pride in it. You have to take pride in your school, your area.
“You know it’s not going to be easy in these all-star games.”
The East jumped out to a 39-14 lead before the West closed to within 46-34 on an 80-yard pass from Rivera to Richard Bradford and Ramirez’s 86-yard kickoff return.
“Both teams have a lot of firepower,” Rivera said. “They were fortunate to come out on top. But we have a lot of character and discipline over here, and we weren’t going to give up.”
Friday’s encounter was all about big plays, and the East made most of them during the first half for a 22-14 advantage.
The first came during the middle of the first quarter when Virnala threw 30 yards to Garrett Horine for a first down at the West 30-yard line before throwing 15 yards to Adam Sanchez for a first-down at the 14.
Nogales’ Diego Lopez kicked a 20-yard field for a 3-0 lead with 3:41 left in the quarter.
But the West believed it could match the East play for play and proved it on the first play of the second quarter when Muir’s Tyquwan Glass intercepted a Billy Livingston pass near the goal line and returned it 50 yards to the East 49.
San Gabriel’s Andy Guerrero and Ramirez, who were opponents in last season’s CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship game, gave the West the lead.
Guerrero ran 25 yards to the East 25 before passing 19 yards to Ramirez for a 6-3 lead with 10:37 left in the half. A bad snap forced a botched conversion attempt.
It didn’t take long for the East to respond.
It needed all of 12 seconds, in fact, when Diamond Ranch’s Chris Miller took the kickoff in the end zone and returned it 104 yards for a 10-6 advantage.
Next up was Rivera, who needed just two plays to show his big-play ability.
Rivera, who threw for 115 yards in the first half, hooked up with Monrovia’s Marquiese Bias for 20 yards to the West 40. He then hit a wide-open Riian Simpson (Pasadena) in the flat for a 60-yard catch and run to give the West the lead at 14-10. Rivera passed to San Gabriel’s Alex Villalobos on the conversion attempt.
But again the East struck back by scoring twice in the final three minutes of the half for its 22-14 lead.
Virnala passed 37 yards to West Covina’s Lonzell Barnett to the West 14 before scoring on a keeper for a 16-14 lead. The conversion failed.
Virnala, who threw for 150 yards in the first half, then tossed 25 yards to Sanchez to the West 48 before a 23-yard pass to Covina’s Vinny Venegas to the 25. He then hit Scott Tibbs (Los Altos) at the 5.
Glendora’s Corey Victoria then swept around end from the 5 for a 22-14 lead with 21 seconds left in the half.
Los Altos’ Justin Fa’aola, following an interception, had a 1-yard run to make it 29-14 with 8:45 left in the third quarter. Lopez had a 47-yard field goal to push the advantage to 32-14 at 2:51.
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