By Aram Tolegian, SGVN
For guys like Monrovia High School football coach Ryan Maddox and Rio Hondo Prep’s Ken Drain, the CIF-Southern Section luncheon held the Monday before the championship games have seemingly become an annual tradition.
Even La Serna was back at the luncheon for a second consecutive season on Monday when all the teams in all the championship games kicked off the biggest week of the season by dining together at The Grand in Long Beach.
“No it doesn’t get old, this is a great thing,” said Drain, who has been to seven championship luncheons as head coach of the Kares. “The menu is pretty much the same. It’s usually really good. I enjoy it.”
Rio Hondo Prep was represented by Drain and team captains Colby Rivera, Jake Holguin, Rico Perez and Jared White. The Kares (11-1) host Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo on Friday night in the Northeast Division championship. Kickoff is 7:30.
The game marks the second time this season the teams will have played. Mission Prep beat Rio Hondo Prep, 47-14, on Aug. 31 and is favored to deny the Kares their second straight division title and Drain’s fifth overall.
“I think we’ll be a lot better, but they are a really good team,” Drain said. “I think we’re a lot better than we were and we didn’t play very well in that game. We’re looking forward to it.”
La Serna is taking a more businesslike approach this season after last year’s championship game resulted in a disastrous loss to West Covina. The Lancers (12-1) take on Downey (10-3) on Saturday night in the Southeast Division final at either Cerritos College or Cal State Fullerton.
The Lancers were represented at Monday’s luncheon by captains Frankie Palmer, John McFarland, Isaiah Osorio and Michael Dingillo.
“It’s a great honor to be around the great teams, especially the captains that worked so hard to get their teams there,” Palmer said.
After having been through the distractions of last season’s trip to the finals, Palmer feels the Lancers are much better equipped to focus fully on the game.
“Since we were there a year ago, it gives us that experience because a lot of the team returned,” Palmer said. “But we still have that 84-21 (loss to West Covina last year) still on our minds. Just because we beat West Covina (this year), it’s not out of our minds yet. We still have unfinished business to win the championship.”
Monrovia is in its fourth consecutive Mid-Valley Division championship game and bidding for its third straight title. It’s getting so that Maddox and his team should have a permanent table at the luncheon.
“I wish I could say it’s going to be like this every year, but I’ve been around this game long enough to know that it isn’t guaranteed and isn’t necessarily going to be the case,” Maddox said. “We’re just grateful to be back The kids are focused and trying to finish the goal that we started way back in fall.”
The Wildcats were represented Monday by linebackers Brett Walsh and George Frazier V, and wide receiver/defensive back Anthony Craft. Monrovia (12-1) hosts Paraclete (12-1) on Friday night. The game pits the division’s top two teams and will provide the final verdict on whether the Southern Section’s plan to beef up the division in order to make things harder on Monrovia worked.
If Monrovia wins on Friday, it stands a good chance to be selected to a state championship bowl-game qualifier that would take place next week.
With so much on the line in terms of history and the chance to have its season continue, you’d think the Wildcats may be caught up in the moment.
But Maddox said that isn’t the case.
“We have to focus on Paraclete,” Maddox said. “We have no control over the other stuff. We have no control over a state bowl game. All we can control is what we do today in practice and we’ve got to take advantage of that.”