West Covina values improvement over perfection

West Covina will be stepping up in class when it faces Loyola on Friday night. Blair Angulo/For ESPNLA.com

West Covina coach Mike Maggiore knows the odds won't be in his team's favor when they travel to play Loyola at Los Angeles Valley College on Friday. It's a step up six levels for the Bulldogs, from the Southeast Division (VII) to the Pac-5 (I).

You just don't see that type of leap often.

"We're going to be playing a very physical, disciplined football team," said Maggiore, whose team is the defending Southeast champ. "Loyola is big, much bigger than us. They have athletes. It's going to be a huge test but I expect our guys to be a lot better next week. I expect us to compete, not back down and play hard. We'll see what happens."

That the Bulldogs (1-0) are battered and bruised doesn't help. Starting quarterback Jon Najera (concussion) left Friday night's 26-20 overtime win against rival Covina at the half and, at one point, Maggiore was down to his fourth and fifth running because of cramping. Standout tailback Chris Solomon suffered an ankle injury early and missed the entire second half. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, both Najera and Solomon will miss Friday's game.

"Chris has kind of been our iron man the last couple of years," Maggiore said. "Whenever he goes down, you worry because there's bigger games we'll be playing later in the year."

For the Bulldogs, non-league games don't get much bigger than this. Loyola (1-0) doubled up Mira Costa, 28-14, in its opener and, needless to say, there aren't many people expecting West Covina to pull off the shocker this week. The Bulldogs' modest 14-game win streak is in serious jeopardy. Maggiore, though, sees the bigger picture.

"We want to keep getting better," he said. "Our goal is to compete for a league championship and go deep in the playoffs. Playing a team like Loyola gets you better."

Even if that means having a scuff mark on the old record.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.