It was only a matter of time until Marquise Bias brought the spotlight onto himself.
The senior running back on the Monrovia football team is having a spectacular year for the Wildcats, who have successfully sustained a balanced attack despite losing key players to graduation.
Evidence of that is Monrovia reaching the CIF-Southern Section semifinals for the fourth straight season under coach Ryan Maddox. Monrovia will play Covina on Friday at Covina District Field in a Mid-Valley Division matchup.
Monrovia (9-3) had the luxury of rotating running backs when Bias was a sophomore. The Wildcats easily went from a speedster to a bruiser in a matter of plays. Bias earned little playing time that season, finishing with 76 yards on four carries, but he showed Maddox that the potential certainly was there.
Bias saw his playing time increase as a junior, and he again showed promise, rushing for 208 yards and one touchdown on 36 carries.
With De’Shawn Ramirez back in the picture for his senior year, it only added to Monrovia’s 1-2 punch that now includes a mature, stronger and faster Bias. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder is averaging 9 yards per carry. His best game this season came in the opening round of the playoffs against Pomona when he muscled his way to 212 yards. And the running back who practically watched from the sidelines three years ago is now commanding the spotlight with 1,223 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“He’s gotten better throughout the year,” Maddox said of Bias. “He’s progressively gotten better and better and proven through the years that he can definitely play at the top of his game.”
Bias adds a bruising element to the Wildcats’ style this season. Ramirez, who can line up at virtually every offensive position, possesses speed while Bias just runs the way he always has.
“He’s a tough-nosed runner,” Maddox said. “He runs hard and low to the ground. He has good vision and is definitely not easy to tackle.”
Bias’ steady growth came just in time, as Monrovia lost its stable of power runners from last year to graduation. That list includes Star-News Player of the Year Nick Bueno.
Bias’ strong play, coupled with Ramirez’s versatility and consistent play from quarterback Blake Heyworth, has the Wildcats back on track after a rough start that Maddox referred to as “a championship hangover.”
How much better? Monrovia scored 67 points on Whittier Christian last week in a rematch of last year’s championship game.
“I just think we’re putting it all together,” Maddox said. “It’s a better understanding of our offense. They’ve made the adjustments we’ve asked them to do, as a result we’ve gotten better as a team.”
In the moment
Monrovia is one game away from reaching its third straight title game, but the Wildcats did not approch the playoffs with the mentality of defending their title.
“The whole CIF championship thing ended at the beginning of the year,” Maddox said. “It’s about an opportunity to play a great team in the semifinals. The championship, that’s last year’s stuff. We have to play great or this is going to be our last game.”