All questions about the legitimacy of the San Marino High School football team figure to be answered tonight when the undefeated Titans visit Monrovia for control of first place in the Rio Hondo League.
San Marino enters tonight’s game at 8-0 overall and 3-0 in league play. But, questions still exist about just how good the Titans actually are because only one of their wins have come against an opponent with a winning record and the combined record of the teams they’ve played is 19-45.
Just don’t tell any of that to Titans second-year head coach Mike Hobbie, who didn’t take to kindly to hearing that for some area pundits the jury’s still out on his team.
“Are you kidding me?” Hobbie said when asked about his team’s schedule to date. “We played a school with 3,000 kids in Crescenta Valley and you’re questioning a school with 1,000 (students)? Give me a break here.
“I could care less what people think, to be honest with you. Our schedule is what it is and most people don’t understand. We’ve played several schools that are two to three times our size, so those people don’t know a whole lot if they’re questioning that. Our players have played hard and they’ve played well and they deserve what they’ve got.”
With a win tonight, the Titans would not only put themselves on the doorstep of the league championship with one week to go in the regular season, they’d also likely cement a top-four seed in the upcoming Mid-Valley Division playoffs with a win over arch-rival South Pasadena next week.
The same is true for Monrovia (6-2 overall, 3-0 in league) which has won or shared the last five Rio Hondo League championships, winning the last four outright with undefeated league seasons each time.
The Wildcats were projected to win a sixth straight Rio Hondo title with ease this season, but San Marino has thrown some doubt into that thought with its sparkling record. But 8-0 hasn’t been enough to get many people outside of the 91108 zip code on the Titans’ bandwagon.
As of Thursday afternoon, poll of readers on one of this newspapers prep sports blogs had 61 percent of people saying Monrovia will win tonight’s game. In this newspaper’s area rankings, the Titans are ranked No. 2 behind Monrovia, which has two losses.
In the latest CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division poll, the Titans are No. 5, behind three teams with worse records. Sierra Canyon (8-0) is the only other undefeated team in the division and is ranked No. 1.
“I don’t buy into that ‘you have to play great competition to get prepped for great competition'” Hobbie said. “I’m sorry, that’s somebody else’s philosophy, not mine.
“Even to question our schedule shows a real lack of knowledge from people. Take a look at how many kids we have in this school and take a look at some of the schools we’ve played and beaten. I don’t know how people qualify what’s a good program and what’s not. You’ve got to look at who you play. Records are meaningless.”
One person who isn’t taking San Marino lightly is Monrovia head coach Ryan Maddox. Although the Wildcats won last year’s meeting 43-7, Maddox feels confident his team will be in for a much tougher battle tonight.
The Wildcats remain one of the fastest teams in the area, whether it’s the big-play ability of their receivers or the breakaway speed of their running backs. The Wildcats’ defense can also move pretty well and is allowing just 14.5 points per game this season.
“I don’t know how much of a speed edge, but I think we have a little bit of an edge speed-wise,” Maddox said. “We saw them play live against Temple City and have seen them on film. You can’t say that til you actually play, but based on what we’ve seen, I would say there’s a slight edge to us speed-wise.”
San Marino, which plays a very methodical style and prefers to pound teams with its running game, has to hope that the speed gap has closed in the last calendar year. If not, it could be a long night for the Titans.
San Marino’s defense is allowing just 7.3 points per game this season. Meanwhile, the Titans offense is putting up an average of 47.7 points per game led by quarterback Matt Wofford and running backs Nick Gott and Ryan Wood.
“It’s an opportunity to play an undefeated team, which you get pumped up for, and it’s for a league a title,” Maddox said. “Obviously, when you’re playing for something, the game has a lot more meaning.”
Monrovia may not have lived up to expectations during part of its beefed up nonleague schedule, but it did post wins over Arcadia, San Dimas and St. Francis. Both Arcadia and San Dimas are bidding for championships in their respective leagues.
The Wildcats’ losses came by a combined four points to Ayala (5-3) and South Hills (5-3), which play tonight across town for the final playoff spot in the rugged Sierra League.
Monrovia is led offensively by quarterback Blake Heyworth and speedy receivers Mason Bryant and Anthony Craft. When the Wildcats want to pound the ball, they turn to running backs Gevontray Ainsworth and Darione Jones. Junior all-purpose threat Deshawn Potts has turned into a major weapon, as well.
The Wildcats have arguably the best linebacker duo in the Valley led by Northwestern-bound Brett Walsh and George Frazier V, who will play next season at Colorado. As good as those two are, David Gallegos has been a big surprise and leads the team in tackles with 71.
“Do I think we can beat a team like Monrovia?” Hobbie said. “It’s going to take a great effort on our part. Whether or not my schedule has anything to do with it, I don’t believe it has anything to do with it.
“Again, I could care less what people think. I don’t answer to them. I answer to my players. What we have done up until now is beat the teams that we have played. Okay? That’s as good as we are.”