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.”
Back in top ten: Gladstone returns to the Tribune’s top ten for the first time in a long time.
SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE’S SUPER 35 RANKINGS
1. Bishop Amat (4-0-1) — The offense has scored 30 or more every game and is fun to watch again. If the defense catches up, they could be a force in the Serra League, where everyone has a winning record.
2. Chino Hills (3-1-1) — Still looks like the Sierra League favorites with a huge win at Great Oak and has a week off before heading to Charter Oak for the league opener.
3. Ayala (4-0) – They’ve undefeated against formidable opponents, but now they get undefeated Kaiser before the Sierra League starts.
4. Charter Oak (3-1) — Chargers answered loss to Bishop Amat like great teams should, routing neighboring Glendora. Now it’s time for another step-up at Los Osos. Can they handle it?
5. Damien (2-1) — The Spartans continue to remind area fans they’re still a force to be dealt with. If they get a win at Los Alamitos like Charter Oak did a few weeks ago, they’ll prove they’re ready for the Sierra.
6. *West Covina (2-3) — Even injured, the Bulldogs are still better than the rest ranked below, showing it again at Diamond Ranch, winning 21-14.
7. South Hills (3-1) — You have to give them credit for already matching last year’s win total on a team few expected anything from.
8. San Dimas (4-1) — You can mark down 9-1 right now because the Saints won’t lose again. They’re simply too good for the Valle Vista.
9. Glendora (2-2) — After its mighty 2-0 start, Ayala and Charter Oak have sent them back to earth.
10. Gladstone (4-0) — When was the last time the Gladiators were ranked in the top ten poll? Hope this isn’t a jinx.
The Rest: 11. Diamond Ranch (3-2), 12. Bonita (2-3), 13. Diamond Bar (2-3), 14. Rosemead (2-2), 15. Claremont (2-3); 16. Los Altos (3-2); 17. Northview (3-2), 18. El Monte (2-2), 19. *Covina (3-2), 20. Rowland (3-2), 21. La Puente (2-2); 22. Sierra Vista (3-1), 23. Mountain View (3-1); 24. Walnut (1-3), 25. Arroyo (2-2); 26. Azusa (2-2), 27. South El Monte (2-2), 28. Duarte (2-2); 29. Wilson (1-4); 30. Nogales (1-4), 31. Baldwin Park (0-5), 32. Pomona (1-3), 33. Workman (1-3), 34. Bassett (1-3), 35. Ganesha (0-4).
*Covina forfeit win; West Covina forfeit loss
Check out our Maxpreps Made Easy Widget for Tribune Football Fans. If coaches are posting rosters, updating stats and standings, this is the most useful SGV widget there is. Check it out, makes following your teams and area leaders simple.
1. Vista Murrieta (4-0), 2. Corona Centennial (3-1), 3. Rancho Cucamonga (4-1), 4. Upland (5-0), 5. Chino Hills (3-1-1), 6. Redlands East Valley (1-2), 7. Charter Oak (3-1), 8. Chaparral (3-1), 9. Norco (3-1), 10. Murrieta Valley (5-0)
1. Sierra Canyon (4-0), 2. Paraclete (4-1), 3. Monrovia (2-2), 4. San Dimas (4-1), 5. San Marino (5-0), 6. Brentwood (4-0), 7. Bell Gardens (3-1), 8. El Monte (2-2), 9. Windward (3-1), 10. Arroyo (2-2).
1. La Mirada (4-1), 2. La Serna (4-1), 3. West Covina (2-3), 4. Norwalk (4-1), 5. Paramount (3-1), 6. California (4-0), 7. Diamond Ranch (3-2), 8. Muir (1-3), 9. Downey (3-2), 10. Bonita (2-3).
1. Nordoff (5-0), 2. Bishop Diego (4-0), 3. La Salle (5-0), 4. North Torrance (3-1), 5. Gladstone (4-0), 6. Oak Park (3-2), 7. Heritage Christian (3-2), 8. El Segundo (2-2), 9. South Torrance (2-2), 10. Bishop Montgomery (4-1).
1. Santa Margarita (5-0), 2. Tesoro (5-0), 3. Mater Dei (4-0), 5. St. Bonaventure (4-1), 6. St. John Bosco (4-0), 6. Mission Viejo (5-0), 7. Alemany (4-1), 8. Oaks Christian (4-1), 9. Crespi (6-0), 10. El Toro (5-0)
Every Friday Clay Fowler’s Blog will be part of ScribbleLive with Mike The Cousin so we can give you more scores and updates from the Inland Empire and share our scores with them. We’re all a big family. Clay’s blog is rolling with football news, rankings, video’s and in the future, you can check out his two-minute drills and discussions of some of the best high school football in the Los Angeles Newspaper Group coverage area.
VISIT THE LANG PREP BLOGS FOR THE BEST COVERAGE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles Daily News: Prep editor Erik Boal posts his Top 20, Alemany No. 1
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San Bernardino Sun: There’s always fun under the sun in San Bernardino with Pete Marshall
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Whittier Daily News: Eric Terrazas is loving his new gig as the Daily News prep editor, check it out