West Covina’s Raging Hull hoping to make life miserable for La Serna

By Aram Tolegian, SGVN

Move over, turkey. There’s something else West Covina High School football fans should be thankful for on Thanksgiving

Noodles.

Only this Noodles isn’t a food item that will be found on anyone’s table this Thanksgiving. Rather, it’s Antonio “Noodles” Hull, a sophomore standout who has put the Bulldogs on his back this postseason and has them a win away from playing for a third consecutive CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship.

West Covina (8-4) visits La Serna (11-1) in the semifinals today at California High. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

“I didn’t expect to have this big of a role this year,” Hull said. “I knew I was going to play a part, but I didn’t think that I’d have this role right now.

“I like it. It’s cool.”

So what exactly is Hull’s role? Well, that seemingly changes each week, and if you want to get specific it sometimes changes every series.

It’s no secret injuries have sabotaged the Bulldogs time and again, but Hull has been the one constant head coach Mike Maggiore and his staff turn to in time of need.

When starting quarterback Jon Najera has been lost to injuries at several points this season, Hull has played quarterback. When Najera has been healthy but running backs DeShon Love or Josh Best have not, Hull has stepped in and provided West Covina with the home run threat that’s made the program so successful the past three seasons.

None of it appears to be too much for Hull to handle. Perhaps that’s because his reputation preceded him long before he arrived on campus at West Covina.

Dating back to his youth football days with the Compton Vikings of the Snoop Youth Football League, Hull always was considered to be destined for football greatness. His youth football highlight reel on YouTube was posted on this newspaper’s prep sports blogs and tantalized West Covina fans before he even stepped on campus for his first day of school.

Hull had several high schools interested in his services during his eighth-grade year. Private schools like Cathedral wanted him, as did Gardena Serra and Narbonne. But when Hull’s family moved from Gardena to West Covina prior to his freshman year, there was no doubt about where he would play his high school ball.

“West Covina is a good program and I figured it fit me,” Hull said. “There were other schools, but when we moved to West Covina, I felt like this was the place.

“I’m getting coached by one of the best coaches in the Valley. That always helps.”

Hull has been as advertised. After having to wait until he turned 14, he was brought up to the varsity team last season and stood watch while a dynamic senior class won its second consecutive Hacienda League and Southeast championships.

This past offseason, Hull battled with Najera for the starting quarterback job and ultimately started the season playing a myriad of roles on offense.

The playoffs have been Hull’s breakout party, though.

Against Paramount in the first round, Hull rushed for 130 yards on 13 carries and scored three touchdowns. In the second round, he led West Covina past Muir by rushing for 144 yards and a touchdown.

On Friday, you can expect to see Hull play quarterback and running back. Oh yeah, and safety when West Covina is on defense. Keep in mind he’s still only 15. Hull admitted the wear and tear of his first varsity season is getting to him, but there’s no turning back now with a championship in his sights.

“It’s always something,” Hull said. “I’m hurt right now. I’ve been injured every game. My body is a little banged up. But being back there with Aaron Salgado and my teammates, it’s just given me the extra strength.

“We want to win.”

No matter what happens Friday, West Covina looks like a good bet to make more postseason noise in the future since he’ll be around for two more seasons. Hull’s hoping to solely play quarterback the next two seasons and see where it gets him with college recruiters.

“I’ve got two years,” Hull said. “I think if I grow a few inches, get a little better and learn how to read defenses a little more, I think I can get recruited as a quarterback. Somebody will give me a shot.”

And in case you’re wondering where the nickname “Noodles” came from, it was given to Hull by his father and based on the fictional prohibition-era Jewish gangster character named David “Noodles” Aaronson played by actor Robert DeNiro in the 1984 film “Once Upon a Time in America.”

And despite the film being made more than 20 years before he was born and the obvious differences between himself and a fictional Jewish gangster from the 1920’s, Hull doesn’t mind the nickname one bit.

“He was a leader,” Hull said. “So that’s why my dad gave that nickname. I’m okay with “Noodles.” I’ve been called that all my life.

“One day I might stop it, but I’m fine with it for now.”

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The Edgewood Boys are back in town, sort of …. Green and Gold Trojans are now the Blue and Gold Lions

Edgewood’s most famous basketball alum, Mike Powell, is also the world record holder in the long jump…

By Fred J. Robledo, SGVN
Glendora, Damien, Rowland and Covina are just some of the area powerhouses scheduled to participate in the 24-team Sierra Vista/Baldwin Park boys basketball tournament that begins Monday.

But there is also a blast from the past — Edgewood High School — making its return to varsity basketball for the first time since 1988.

Edgewood was a well-known area high school that competed in the Sierra and Valle Vista League’s for many years, winning back-to-back CIF baseball titles in the 70s as well as producing some of the best wrestling teams in area history.

Mike Powell, the world record holder in the long jump, was a slam-dunking machine for Edgewood in the early 1980s, but the school closed its doors and merged with West Covina in 1989 as Edgewood became a junior high school.

But now its back and things have changed.

Edgewood is blue and gold instead of green and gold and its nickname is the Lions instead of the Trojans.

For coach Damien Tate, who played basketball at Edgewood until the school merged with West Covina, said it feels like more of an expansion squad than old Edgewood.

“Weird ain’t the word,” Tate said. “It’s hard to get use to the colors and the name. Blue and gold? The Lions? That doesn’t feel like Edgewood.

“But we’re starting over from scratch. This isn’t Edgewood the way it use to be. It’s a new era.”
There are only 600 students in the school and no seniors. The first senior class isn’t until 2014.

There is also no football team, though West Covina head coach Mike Maggiore and former South Hills coach Steve Bogan, who own a combined seven CIF titles as coaches — both graduated from Edgewood.

Softball and swimming also will compete on the varsity level this season, but Edgewood has a long way to go before it starts fielding more athletic programs.

Edgewood re-entered the CIF Southern Section as an independent playing a freelance schedule with hopes of joining the Montview or Valle Vista League in the coming years.

For Tate, he knows it’s going to be a learning and humbling experience.

Edgewood opens the Sierra Vista/Baldwin Park tournament at Baldwin Park on Monday against Walnut at 3 p.m., followed
by West San Gabriel Valley power Keppel on Wednesday.

The Lions hope that 5-foot-8 guard Daniel Aguilar and 5-foot-6 Cameron Lee can lead the way, but Tate expects a lot of bumps in the road.

“I don’t want our guys focused on wins and losses, my main goal is to teach these guys to work hard,” Tate said. “We’re not anything close to what you would call a basketball school. We’re looking for a different kind of player, a kid that has a never quit attitude. At the end of the day it’s about competing and working hard. If they give me that we can live with whatever the result will be.”

For Tate, it’s a fun opportunity and a different point in his career.

Tate played college basketball at San Francisco State, worked in radio and television and was employed by Warner Brothers for 14 years before being laid off two years ago.

“I still live in West Covina and always wanted to get back into coaching,” Tate said. “For it to be Edgewood, that’s special.”

BALDWIN PARK/SIERRA VISTA BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
Monday’s round-robin schedule
At Baldwin Park

Edgewood vs. Walnut, 3 p.m.
Thousand Oaks vs. West Covina, 4:30 p.m.
Azusa vs. Damien, 6 p.m.
Jurupa Hills vs. Troy, 7:30 p.m.
At Sierra Vista
La Puente vs. Rowland, 3 p.m.
Arroyo vs. Colony, 4:30 p.m.
Claremont vs. Sierra Vista, 6 p.m.
Garey vs. Glendora, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday’s round-robin schedule
At Baldwin Park

Walnut vs. Keppel, 3 p.m.
Colony vs. South Hills, 4:30 p.m.
Don Lugo vs. Thousand Oaks, 6 p.m.
Claremont vs. Baldwin Park, 7:30 p.m.
At Sierra Vista
Rowland vs. Garfield, 3 p.m.
Damien vs. Diamond Ranch, 4:30 p.m.
Glendora vs. California, 6 p.m.
Troy vs. Covina, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday’s round-robin schedule
At Baldwin Park

Keppel vs. Edgewood, 3 p.m.
Garfield vs. La Puente, 4:30 p.m.
Diamond Ranch vs. Azusa, 6 p.m.
West Covina vs. Don Lugo, 7:30 p.m.
At Sierra Vista
Garey vs. California, 3 p.m.
South Hills vs. Arroyo, 4:30 p.m.
Baldwin Park vs. Sierra Vista, 6 p.m.
Covina vs. Jurupa Hills, 7:30 p.m.

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Thanksgiving Practice then the long road to Paraclete for San Dimas, who hope to knock off the No. 1 Spirits

By Aram Tolegian

San Dimas High School football coach Bill Zernickow isn’t worried about much this week.

In theory, having a long road trip on a bus packed with players with full bellies from Thanksgiving festivities the day before would be cause for any coach trying to avoid a slugging start in such a critical game.

But not for Zernickow, whose Saints (11-1) take on top-seeded Paraclete (11-1) in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division semifinals on Friday night at Antelope Valley College. Kickoff is 7:30p.m.

“I don’t think the road trip means much to us, we don’t care,” Zernickow said. “Our (team) just love bus trips and doing whatever they do. It’s just an opportunity for us as a football team to do something together.”

The Saints are one of two local teams still alive in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs and that means a team get-together on Thanksgiving Day before a long bus drive to Antelope Valley College on Friday.

Up until this season, Thanksgiving Day practice was a hallowed tradition and watermark of success for local football programs. But that all changed when CIF moved the football season schedule back a week, which means if you want to practice on Thanksgiving, it means making the semifinals. In previous years, it meant needing only to win a first-round game.

For San Dimas, which has become a shoe-in to the Mid-Valley semifinals in recent years, the beat goes on. The program will hold a Thanksgiving Day breakfast, during which parents serve pancakes to players and alumni.

“This was a blessing to get there,” Zernickow said of still being alive in the playoffs on Thanksgiving.

San Dimas will leave campus at 1:30p.m. Friday and head for Antelope Valley College with a stop for dinner in between. Whether the Saints can get off to a hot start and blunt any home-field edge the Spirits may have could go a long way in determining whether the bus ride home is a happy one.

“They have some dudes,” Zernickow said of Paraclete. “They have both athletes and big guys, and they’re well-coached. We’ve been friends with their staff for a while, so we know a lot about them because we’ve spent time with them.

“We know, but it’s hard to transfer that to your own kids.”

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Gladstone coach Albert Sanchez saves best for last: “It was tough walking off that football field.”

By Aram Tolegian

After 14 years as head coach at Gladstone, Albert Sanchez’s tenure officially came to an end last Friday night at Citrus College when the Gladiators were eliminated from the Northwest Division playoffs by North Torrance.

“I get choked up still, because it’s been embedded in me,” Sanchez said of being the head coach at Gladstone. “It’s what I’ve known. I love the game of football and I love to coach.

“It was very emotional. I just wanted to go over to my guys and be with them. It was tough walking off that football field.”

Gladstone finished the season 10-2, earned a share of the Montview League and won the school’s first playoff game since 1977. Things figured to be real tough against North Torrance, but the Gladiators made a game of it, which further increased Sanchez’s pride in his players.

“We looked at North Torrance and figured it was back to playing Division X football the way we used to with their size and speed,” Sanchez said.

“Personally, I thought we were going to have our hands full with them. But it got to a point when the game was progressing where I thought `this is going to be like El Monte again’ and come down to the last possession.”

North Torrance eventually held on for a 42-34 win. Gladstone will now have to spend the early part of the offseason finding a replacement for Sanchez.

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Charter Oak faces reality: “We can do it one week, but we can’t do it week in and week out,” says coach Lou Farrar

By Aram Tolegian, staff writer
For the second straight season, Charter Oak was eliminated from the Inland Division playoffs by a Baseline League team.

Last season, Upland did the honors. This season, it was Rancho Cucamonga by a score of 23-7.

Charter Oak finished 10-2 for the second consecutive season, but the sense that there’s a ceiling on just how far the Chargers can go in the rugged Inland Division is becoming reality.

“We can do it one week, but we can’t do it week in and week out,” Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said. “The physical pounding and preparation are really difficult. My kids gave me everything they had. They left it all out on the field.”

Last season, the case can be made that Farrar had his best offense ever, led by quarterback Travis Santiago, running back Kurt Scoby and two next-level receivers in Chris Gilchrist and Bryce Bobo.

This season, the case can be made that Farrar has his best defense ever, a unit that allowed just 11.5 points per game. But the results were the same – the Chargers were sent packing in the second round.

“Here’s the deal, I thought about that after the game Friday and now three or four days of thought,” Farrar said. “Personnel-wise, if I could take the best players we’ve had for the last three years and put them on the same team, then I’ve got a chance to go to the third round, or the fourth.

“If I took the last three years and put all our kids on one team, I would look like Rancho Cucamonga. The point is, Rancho Cucamonga just had more players in more positions than we did. I don’t know if we can reach those levels.”

— Aram Tolegian

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