La Cañada High was in dire need of a win on the football field to keep its hopes alive for one of the Rio Hondo’s automatic playoff bids. The problem was the Spartans would have to overcome league leader Monrovia to accomplish the feat
After La Cañada took an early lead, the Wildcats offense roared to life and Monrovia came away with an 51-3 win over the host Spartans Friday.
“We came out here and we battled,” La Cañada coach Jason Sarceda said. “It was senior night at home and we didn’t quit. We stayed strong all the way through the last quarter.”
With the win over La Cañada (5-4, 1-2 in league) in the Wildcats’ regular-season finale, Monrovia (9-1, 4-0) claimed the outright league championship.
“The goal coming into this season was to have a good preseason. We did that at 4-1, played some tough teams, and then our goal was to come in and win the Rio Hondo League,” Monrovia coach Chris Williams said. “We thought we were going to have some tough games, but our boys came in focused and did what we asked them to do. To win [the league championship] this way at 9-1 is a good feeling.”
La Cañada executed a successful on-side kick to open the game. It was Efrem Rivera who recovered the bouncing ball off the foot of Andy Kozanian.
On the Spartans’ first snap, trickery resulted in a big gain. Rivera took the pitch from quarterback Brandon Reese and then fired a pass downfield to Justin Zoltzman for a 22-yard gain, which would prove to be La Cañada’s biggest play of the game.
La Cañada made it to the 3-yard line before turning to Rivera, who booted a 20-yard field goal and the hosts led, 3-0, with 8:58 left in the first.
“We have a lot of our guys injured right now,” Sarceda said. “With those injuries, I knew it was going to be a tough battle right out the gate. We just had to take that shot and go down and put points on the board.”
The Wildcats, ranked No. 3 in CIF-Southern Section Division IX, took over from there and scored the final 51 points of the game, all coming before halftime. The second half featured a running clock.
Monrovia scored 21 points in the first quarter. On the Wildcats’ first possession, Devon Mayes ripped off a 45-yard run on fourth and short, and then on the next play ran the ball in from the one for the first touchdown of the contest.
It would be the first of three consecutive scoring plays for Monrovia.
Monrovia led after one quarter, 21-3.
A bad La Cañada punt then set up the visitors with a short field. The ensuing drive lasted one play, when quarterback Nick Hernandez pulled the ball down and ran 30 yards up the middle for the score.
Then a bad snap on a punt attempt by La Cañada (No. 10 in Division XIV) gave the visitors another short field. On another one-play drive, Hernandez threw a short pass to Mario Minor, who did the rest on a 29-yard touchdown.
Hernandez finished 12 of 18 passing for 204 yards passing, three touchdowns through the air and the one rushing touchdown.
The second quarter saw Monrovia score 30 points in a variety of ways. First Hernandez dropped a pass right into the hands of Minor for a 36-yard touchdown despite tight coverage for the Spartan secondary.
The Wildcats were then gifted two points when a shotgun snap sailed over the head of Reese, who covered the ball in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
In the final 2:36 of the second quarter Monrovia tallied 21 points. The first score came on a two-play drive that ended with a 56-yard rushing touchdown up the middle by Wildcats Daylen Wilson.
Kai Taylor then scooped up a La Cañada fumble on the first play of the possession and returned it 10 yards for another score 14 seconds later.
The scoring burst finished with 14 seconds before the break on a 19-yard scoring connection from Hernandez to Rudy Flores, capping a two-play drive set up by an interception by Taylor.
In the opening minute of the second quarter, Kozanian uncorked a 68-yard punt. It was the second longest punt in the history of La Cañada High, bested only by a 72-yard punt in 1992 by Matt Perrigue.
The final game of the regular season for La Cañada will be on the road in a league game against South Pasadena on Friday.
“The plan has always been to be in the playoffs and we still have an opportunity at that with an at-large bid,” Sarceda said. “We have to get after it.”