By Aram Tolegian
Monrovia High School football coach Ryan Maddox had little time to celebrate his program’s third consecutive CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship.
He had more important things to do Saturday, like drive to Escondido to scout an opponent his team may or may not play in a bowl-game qualifier this week. Turns out, it was a good call.
When Monrovia hosts Madison (12-1) of San Diego on Saturday night, Maddox should have his team well-versed in what an unfamiliar opponent like the Warhawks likes to do. The winner plays either Marin Catholic (13-1) or Sutter (13-0) next Saturday in the State Division III bowl game at Home Depot Center in Carson.
“We actually went down on Saturday morning and watched Madison play against St. Augustine,” Maddox said. “We watched it and filmed it. We didn’t know for sure that we were going to be chosen, but there was a chance that we were so we went down and scouted them.
“I guess we didn’t have to go because we were going to exchange films, but you get a chance to go see them live and get a feel for the speed and the size. There’s a lot of stuff you can see live that you can’t necessarily pick up on film. It’s hard when you know nothing about the teams they play.”
Several coaches across the state are learning this week what it’s like to play a 15th and possibly 16th game, thanks to CIF’s new format of bowl-game qualifiers and the state championship bowl games the following week.
But for Monrovia, long seasons are nothing new. The Wildcats have played 14-game seasons for four consecutive years. So adding on another week or two isn’t going to be culture shock. Maddox also had his team pointing toward a goal of extending this season past the Mid-Valley championship.
“I think what helps is that this has been a goal for us,” Maddox said. “It was something that we set for ourselves in the off-season. It wasn’t just about being a CIF championship. It was about setting the goal a step higher.
“The one thing about the bowls is that it’s out of your control. The CIF championship is something that you can control by winning. But it was a goal of ours. I think that helps because the kids are mentally prepared for it because it was a goal they’ve had since early on.”
Monrovia defeated Paraclete last Friday to win the division for the third consecutive season. The Wildcats are 12-2 and have not lost a postseason game since 2009.
From what Maddox saw on Saturday, though, Madison will be a tough task. The Warhawks are led by Arizona-bound running back Pierre Cormier, who has 1,940 yards and 26 touchdowns this season.
“They’re an excellent football team,” Maddox said. “The running back is pretty amazing. He’s a commit to Arizona and it’s pretty obvious why. Their quarterback is very athletic. They’re a spread team, so they’re going to try and boat-race you.”
KARES HIT THE ROAD
Rio Hondo Prep (12-1), fresh off its upset win over Mission Prep in the Northeast Division final, saw its season extended. The Kares were selected to play in the State Division IV bowl game qualifier against Sante Fe Christian (10-3) of Solana Beach. Friday’s game will be played at Del Norte High in San Diego.
The winner will play the following week at Home Depot Center against the winner of the Northern California qualifier between McClymonds (9-3) of Oakland and Central Catholic of Modesto.
“Well, we’ve watched the film and they run an offense very similar to Big Bear, a team we played earlier in the year,” Rio Hondo Prep coach Ken Drain said of Santa Fe Christian. “It’s a double-wing, option-type offense.
“They pass very little. Probably even less than we do.”
Travel has never rattled the Kares. They’re used to it after having played this season in faraway places such as Big Bear, Boron and Edwards Air Force Base. But leaving on a Friday afternoon and bucking traffic won’t be too much for the Kares.
“It’s a Friday, there’s traffic between here and San Diego, so we will probably leave early to avoid the traffic,” Drain said. “It’s not that big a thing for us to travel. We’re used to it.
“We travel a lot and it’s just for that reason. In the playoffs you never know where you might go.”
Like Monrovia, the Kares have plenty of experience with marathon seasons.
After all, Rio Hondo Prep just played in Week 14 for the second year in a row as it repeated as Northeast Division champion.
The question is whether the Kares can recover after last Friday’s grueling game against Mission Prep that saw its fair share of big hits.
“Can we do it again?” Drain said. “That’s going to be tough because we really played well against Mission Prep. They were a very good team and our guys are banged up from that type of game.
“Can we get them back together again for this Friday? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
By Aram Tolegian