WEST COVINA -- Consider any questions surrounding West Covina's validity completely answered. The Southeast Division's top-ranked team is legit. The Bulldogs left no doubt Friday night.
No. 1 West Covina and No. 2 Bonita were supposed to play a tight one. Each side would score its share of points, but everyone assumed the battle between Hacienda League powers would be decided in the final seconds. It had all the makings.
To the surprise of West Covina coach Mike Maggiore and probably all of those in attendance, the exact opposite happened.
"I didn't think we'd score 55 points, to be honest with you," he said following West Covina's 55-21 win. "I thought we could move the ball on them, thought it would be a tight game, thought it would come down to the fourth quarter. But we made some big plays early and took their momentum away in the first half. I'm proud of our guys."
One guy -- junior tailback Chris Solomon -- stood out above the rest. He scored three rushing touchdowns, ran for 187 yards on 11 carries and added a 97-yard score on a kickoff return in the final minute. And like his coach, Solomon was genuinely shocked by the way the Bulldogs won.
"It ended up being a blowout because we worked hard every day of the week," Solomon said.
West Covina (7-1), which has won seven straight, used the consistency of its patented run game to crush previously-undefeated Bonita (7-1). Though he's referred to by teammates as "Solo," Solomon wasn't the only one chewing up yards. Far from it.
Beejay Lee (76 yards), Jimmy Frazier (37), Charles Tucker (28) and Aaron Salgado (26) chipped in with their share. It's been a year-long trend for this bunch.
"We played a phenomenal game," Solomon said. "Our team came together and we just played Bulldog football. As of now we've got three fantastic backs who nobody can stop. If that keeps going and our offense keeps blocking, everything will be smooth."
It was Lee who gave West Covina the lead for good, breaking off an electric 80-yard score on a kickoff return immediately following Bonita's go-ahead field goal. A 57-yard touchdown scamper by Solomon on the Bulldogs' next possession made it 21-13. Anthony Molina picked off Garrett Pendleton (23-for-39, 279 yards) and returned it 90 yards for a score right before halftime.
"We made some big plays on defense," Maggiore said. "In terms of keeping them out of the end zone and making plays when we had to, we did a good job."
Solomon, who was held out of the game's first series for disciplinary reasons, scored from 20 yards to cap West Covina's 80-yard, five-minute drive at the start the second half. Lee reached the end zone again on the following drive, striking on a 23-yarder to the left side. Solomon made it 48-13 with a seven-yard score shortly thereafter.
"I was kind of angry," Solomon said regarding his absence from the first series. "It made me want to fight more, more and more. As soon as the second series came, I just gave it my all. And this is what it turned out to be."
Maggiore emptied his bench with just over five minutes remaining. By then, fans seated behind West Covina's bench had begun chanting "Over-rated!" -- despite the fact that the Bulldogs were ranked higher heading into the game. The Bulldogs were supposed to win, just not by 34 points.
Perhaps Maggiore should consider holding Solomon out of West Covina's first offensive series next week, too.