The call came with about nine minutes to go in the first quarter.
Monrovia High School was facing third and 18 from its own 20, and second-year Wildcats coach Ryan Maddox opted to punt to Paraclete in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs last week on a cold and windy night at Knight High in Palmdale.
“We’re going to punt?
Why are we punting?”
That was the immediate reaction from some on the Monrovia sidelines, but Maddox was on to something.
“We knew going into that game (Paraclete) was going to have one of the better defenses all year,” Maddox explained. “We talked about it before the game that two very good defenses clashing together would make for a game of field position and a low-scoring battle.
“They had us back up in our end zone and it’s not a very high-percentage down. They’ve got us pinned. When we punted that meant they ended up with the ball on their own 20 instead of starting on our field. It was a huge changing of field possession.”
Paraclete’s first possession was at its 24, and the Spirits got to the Monrovia 40 before a false start backed them up five yards. Without advancing on their next two plays, Spirits coach Norm Dahlia called a timeout with 4:48 left in the first quarter. On the next play, Monrovia’s Charlie Cimmarusti intercepted the ball.
In the long scheme of things, Maddox needed to win his first battle before winning the war, and that meant shifting field possession in the Wildcats’ favor.
Monrovia (12-0) went on to win 14-3 and earned a second consecutive semifinal appearance. They host Whittier Christian (9-3) on Saturday night.