By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
With both teams needing one more win to set up the marquee matchup most area fans want to see in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division football playoffs, Covina and Monrovia high schools promise they won’t be looking ahead on Friday when they play second-round games.
Monrovia, last year’s division champion, and Covina, the division’s top-ranked team,
appear to be on a collision course to meet in the semifinals next week. But first, they must win on the road. For Covina, that means beating Alhambra at Moor Field. For Monrovia, it means beating Whittier Christian at Whittier College.
“That’s for everybody else to talk about,” Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox said regarding a potential game with Covina. “Our kids know Whittier Christian is a good program. They know Whittier Christian can play football, so there’s been no talk around us about Covina at all.
“The kids know we have to play great on Friday night to even think about playing next week.”
Friday’s game will mark the third time in as many seasons Monrovia (8-3) has played Whittier Christian (7-4). Last season, the Wildcats beat the Heralds in the division championship game. Both teams have lost several key contributors from last year’s rosters, but Maddox expects nothing but a good challenge from Whittier Christian.
“I don’t say this to sound arrogant by any stretch, but when you progress in the playoffs like we have and they have each year you’re going to see the same teams,” Maddox said. “They’re doing the right things over there and they do what they do very well.
That’s why they’ve had the success that they’ve had.”
While the Monrovia-Whittier Christian game figures to be competitive, the local punditry doesn’t think Covina-Alhambra will be much of a game.
The only person not buying that is Colts coach Darryl Thomas.
“They’re good, they’re well-coached and they do a whole lot of different things defensively,” Thomas said. “And on offense, they want to confuse you. We have to make sure we bring our `A’ game.”
Ever since Alhambra’s stunning 69-14 loss to San Gabriel, most of the Valley has jumped off the Moors’ bandwagon. But since that game, Alhambra (9-2) has bounced back to beat Bell Gardens and La Puente.
Thomas thinks judging the Moors by one bad game against San Gabriel is foolish for anybody to do, especially his own team.
“They had a bad night,” Thomas said of Alhambra’s loss to San Gabriel.
“San Gabriel had everything bounce their way. For you to score that many points, things have to bounce your way. Other than that, they’ve been a very tough team. I think they gave up almost a quarter of the points they’ve allowed on season just in that one game.”
Covina (10-1) got a scare last week when leading rusher Gevontray Ainsworth injured his ankle in the first quarter against South El Monte and did not return. Thomas said Ainsworth is back practicing and will be ready to go on Friday night.
For Monrovia, early season struggles have given way to a seven-game winning streak with the lowest margin of victory being 12 points.
Defense has been the catalyst for the Wildcats and that stands to reason with super recruit Ellis McCarthy patrolling the line.
Many fans will remember last year’s championship run for the exploits of quarterback Nick Bueno and the offense, but Maddox maintains defense is what got Monrovia a ring last year. He said it will be what gets them another one this year should they win it all.
“I’ll be honest, last year’s team definitely hung its hat on the defense,” Maddox said. “Now we could put up points, but we were spectacular on defense last year. That allowed us to do what we did last year. We’re getting to that point where we’re starting to play how we did last year on defense.”