By Aram Tolegian
Since losing to rival Bonita in the season opener, San Dimas High School’s football team has been on a tear. The Saints have outscored CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division foes Azusa and San Gabriel by a combined score of 100-22. Are the Saints ready to join Covina and Monrovia on everyone’s short list of division champion contenders? The Valley will find out Friday when San Dimas (2-1) visits Monrovia (1-1). “I think our kids have worked hard in practice,” San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow said. “I think getting some experience in game-time situations helps, so as games have gone on we’ve gotten better. The kids have just gotten more comfortable playing. Defensively, being able to tackle a little bit better and forcing turnovers helps the cause.”
In theory, the Saints are catching a major break this week with the announcement that Monrovia super-recruit Ellis McCarthy, who plays defensive end, will miss the game with a knee injury. But Zernickow isn’t buying that the 6-foot-5, 310-pound McCarthy won’t be out on the field ready to contribute when 7 p.m. rolls around Friday.
“We’ve been preparing as if he is (playing) the whole way through,” Zernickow said. “I just think he’s a gamer. The guy loves to play football. He wants to go out there and play the game and game night always brings the courage up for everybody.
“The funny thing is he gets all the press, but they have three other really good defensive linemen on that team.”
Monrovia and San Dimas have played a combined four times in the past two seasons. In 2009, the Wildcats beat San Dimas during the regular season only to lose to the Saints in the Mid-Valley championship game. Last season, the Saints pulled off a stunning upset over the Wildcats in the regular season but were shellacked in the semifinals as Monrovia eventually won the division.
The past two seasons’ results suggest perhaps it’s better to lose the regular-season matchup. That’s something Zernickow said both staffs have been joking about this week.
“It’s been a joke throughout the week on the text messages, back and forth,” Zernickow said. “I think the team that loses the first game becomes more hungry. Obviously, there’s going to have to be a breaking point here. One of us is going to have to win both games. Obviously, there’s no guarantee we’ll face each other in the playoffs again, but we will.”