By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
MONROVIA — A celebration 75 years in the making took place Thursday night at Library Park where city dignitaries honored Monrovia High School’s football team for bringing home its first ever CIF-Southern Section championship.
In their 10th finals appearance last month, the Wildcats defeated Whittier Christian, 38-8, to capture the Mid-Valley Division title in front of a standing-room only crowd of 4,557 at Arcadia High.
Prior to bringing home the title, Monrovia was the only school in Southern Section history to reach nine finals appearances without bringing home a divisional title. Monrovia made its first CIF finals appearance in 1935.
The football team and coaching staff rode in a fire truck, school bus and carriage. It departed from Monrovia High heading east on Colorado Boulevard and turned north on Myrtle Avenue in the heart of Old Town District.
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Monrovia principal Darvin Jackson said the city council organized the event, and that he was approached by a city council member about hosting a championship parade and rally.
“This was 10 times in the making,” Jackson said, “so they understood the magnitude of this championship.”
Monrovia football coach Ryan Maddox, in only his third season at the helm, understood first hand what it’s like when a close-knit community comes together.
“Before I even came here, I knew this town was unique,” he said. “It’s as if they took a Midwestern town and put it in Southern California.”
Mayor Mary Ann Lutz proclaimed the night “Monrovia Wildcat Day” and school board President Ed Gililland called on residents to donate to a fund set up by the board to help buy the team CIF championship rings.
The celebration was a homecoming of sorts for almost two dozen former players, including Bob Humble (1948) and Chris Hale (’84), who went on to play in Super Bowl XXV and XXVI with the Buffalo Bills.
Josh Lowden, who graduated in 2010 and was part of a Wildcats team that lost to San Dimas in last year’s final, said the feeling was anything but bittersweet.
“You just have to feel happy, and it’s sweet more than anything because we’re all a part of it,” he said. “We built off of the ’90s teams and they built off of what we did last year.”
Monrovia defensive line coach Mike Minter, who was part of the coaching staff that lost in the finals in 1997, 1998 and 1999, was overwhelmed with emotion.
“You always wondered when you were going to get that break,” said Minter holding back tears. “To see all this is truly special.”
A portion of Myrtle Avenue between Lime and Palm avenues was closed 45 minutes before the team’s arrival, but it had no impact on local businesses.
In fact, merchants on Myrtle said they welcomed the celebration.
“We love it,” said Nani Shonnard, owner of Nani Skin Care. “This is what kids need to have, celebrate success. They worked hard and they deserve it.”
PLAYERS OVERWHELMED BY STRONG SUPPORT
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer, Staff Writer
MONROVIA — One by one the Monrovia High School football team was introduced before a cheering crowd of approximately 1,500 fans at Library Park on Thursday night.
A close-knit town came together to honor the Wildcats for bringing home the school’s first ever CIF-Southern Section football championship after beating Whittier Christian 38-8 last month.
Monrovia quarterback Nick Bueno and safety Charlie Cimmarusti were taken aback by the community support.
“It’s amazing, the turnout,” Cimmarusti said.
Added Bueno: “We thought we would ride a bus, drive by, wave and then go back to school.”
The parade and rally, organized by the city council, was 75 years in the making. Monrovia made its 10th finals appearance count, and the magnitude of the finals victory resonated with the past and present.
Bob Humble, a 1948 graduate, attended five of the Wildcats’ 10 championship appearances. He also attended every game this season and, perhaps fittingly, celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary with wife Marilyn (’52) four days before Monrovia captured the Mid-Valley Division title.
“To watch (former coach Steve) Garrison’s efforts die was heartbreaking,” said Humble, proudly sporting a green jacket and black Monrovia hat. “Ryan Maddox was terrific turning this team around almost overnight.”
Humble didn’t need much time to think when asked who his favorite player was this season.
“Nick Bueno,” he responded. “He’s the best player I’ve seen for his size.”
There was a heartwarming sight when senior captain Evan Sanchez was introduced. The tight end/linebacker who tore anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments halfway through the season and spent weeks confined to a wheelchair, walked up to the stage, albeit with the help of a cane.
Senior Dean Bisterfeldt can thank good sportsmanship from La Caada’s wrestling coaching staff, which allowed Bisterfeldt, who would normally wrestle last as a 215-pounder, to go first in a key Rio Hondo League dual meet.
Notably absent from the festivities was junior defensive linemen Ellis McCarthy. The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder on the same day took part in the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio.
Monrovia principal Darvin Jackson sported a monkey backpack with a white shirt that had “Monrovia X” printed on the front. He said it was nice “to get the monkey off our back”, adding he wouldn’t throw it away because Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox agreed to include the plush toy in the new trophy case that will highlight the new gymnasium slated to open Jan. 13.