By Fred J. Robledo, SGVN
West Covina High School coach Mike Maggiore jokingly said they dressed up an imposter prior to Friday’s 20-14 win over Diamond Ranch in the Hacienda League opener that improved the Bulldogs to 2-3 overall, though one of those losses was a win they forfeited to Covina for using an ineligible player.
Senior quarterback Jon Najera warmed up and dressed prior to beating the Panthers, but Maggiore decided to sit him out another week because he needed practice time.
“We were hoping nobody would notice,” Maggiore said of Najera in uniform.
Najera suffered a knee injury in a pre-season scrimmage against Claremont and hasn’t taken a snap since. Najera was one of the most impressive quarterbacks over the summer, leading the Bulldogs to the Arroyo Passing League title.
“He’s (Najera ) cleared to play,” Maggiore said. “He got cleared last Thursday and we anticipate him playing this week (at home against Los Altos on Friday).”
If Najera starts, it will only be his second start in a Bulldog uniform.
Najera was injured the first game of his junior season and when he returned late in the year the Bulldogs were well on their way to their second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division title, so he only played a clean-up role in garbage time.
“He’s probably the most experienced, inexperienced quarterback there is,” Maggiore said. “He gives us so much more diversity and at a time when we missed 11 starters (against Diamond Ranch) because of injuries, it will be nice to get your quarterback back. It’s huge for us.”
Huge in a lot of ways.
Sophomore Antonio “Noodles” Hull is pegged as the future QB, but he’s not capable of throwing the ball around the park like Najera. Plus, with Najera back, it allows Hull to return to the backfield, where the Bulldogs will also welcome back junior Josh Best from injury.
“Josh is one of the better running backs in the area,” Maggiore said. “We’ve missed him a great deal too.”
Adding Best to go with Hull and bruiser Aaron Salgado in the backfield may finally allow the Bulldogs to look like a team seriously capable of winning a third straight Southeast title.
With West Covina looking human in blowout losses to Loyola and Chino Hills, La Mirada and La Serna have taken over the top two spots respectively in the Southeast rankings, with the Bulldogs third.
“We’ve got a couple guys back and we want to get more healthy,” Maggiore said. “Then you have to stay healthy so there’s a lot that has to go right.”