Some of the luster was already off the Monrovia High School football program when the CIF-Southern Section proposed the Wildcats, along with the Rio Hondo League, be moved to the Central Division.
Monrovia had just come off a season in which it was walloped by St. Francis in the area’s biggest nonleague game of the season and later lost in the semifinals of the Mid-Valley Division playoffs despite being prohibitive favorites to win their fourth consecutive division title.
Then came word that head coach Ryan Maddox, who had guided the program to one of the most successful runs in area history, resigned to focus on other career goals. Maddox’s departure led to a longer-than-expected job search that saw some very high-profile local coaches say “thanks but no thanks” to being the next head coach.
In the end, Monrovia landed Chris Stevens, formerly of Ontario Christian, to lead the program into arguably the biggest transition period in school history.
The above mentioned happenings aren’t exactly the perfect set up for a program that’s about to see a boost in playoff competition to steep that it could make them the laughing stock of the Valley.
If those words sound harsh, then I urge you to please understand the following point. It’s one thing to go 4-6 and miss the playoffs. When that happens, people may chuckle and forget all about it a few minutes later. That isn’t what will happen to Monrovia. Quite the opposite, actually.
This fall, Monrovia will likely trample the Rio Hondo League yet again. With any success in the nonleague, the Wildcats figure to have a good enough record to go into the postseason as a top-four seed in the Central Division playoffs.
It’s at that the point the Valley’s vast football fan base will reach a crescendo of doubt as it pertains to the Wildcats’ validity at the Central Division level. The prevailing notion will be that Monrovia is about to get exposed the minute it steps on the field against, say, a top-flight team from Hacienda or Palomares leagues.
Monrovia won’t need to win the Central to stave off embarrassment, but it has to avoid a first-round exit. But is the program really at a level where even that’s possible?
This fall’s Monrovia team will have way more question marks than any of the past five editions. Who’s the quarterback? Who’s the star running back? Those positions were never really in doubt in recent years. But they are now.
There’s still plenty of talent, especially in the outside skill positions, at Monrovia. The Wildcats annually have some of the fastest players around. The Wildcats also have excellent size along both lines, albeit young. But you’re not just going to run by anybody in Charter Oak’s secondary and you’re not just going to simply push around Glendora or West Covina.
Monrovia got by on sheer talent and Maddox’s cool-under-pressure leadership in the Mid-Valley Division. It’s going to take more than talent, though, when the guy across from you in the Central Division is just as fast or big, or both.
And Maddox isn’t around anymore to masterfully handle all the different personalities and strange situations that Monrovia has had in the recent past.
Monrovia is a powerhouse in flux. New coach. New quarterback. New running back. New division. Meanwhile, the Valley is an unforgiving place that’s hard to impress. Same doubts. Same questions. Same skepticism.
Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of a football power?
Or is Monrovia about to make CIF’s tough assignment look easy?
No matter how you answer either question, one thing is for certain — the Wildcats better use the next three months wisely because there’s plenty of cynics lying in wait. Some of them wear helmets and shoulders, and some do not.