In a matchup that could have been billed as Wildcats vs. Guerrero, it was Marquise Bias who stole the show in Saturday's CIF-SS Mid-Valley championship game to lead Monrovia to a 53-14 victory over San Gabriel and its second title in as many years.
"It's great to go out on top. I love my teammates and I wish them the best next year," said Bias. "It's been a storybook ending."
Bias, a senior, ran for 260 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
The Matadors were determined to let star quarterback Andy Guerrero guide their fate. Guerrero, who entered the game with over 4,300 yards from scrimmage this season, was the team's only ball carrier with 60 rushing yards and completed 21 of 35 passes for 220 yards.
After a quarter of play spent feeling out each other's defenses, it was Monrovia that got on the scoreboard first in the second quarter. Bias ended the first quarter with a 38-yard run to move the ball into the Matadors' red zone and later punched the ball in on a 12-yard sweep to the left to cap a 99-yard scoring drive.
The Matadors got their offense rolling on the ensuing possession. On third down in San Gabriel territory, Guerrero threw a near interception that deflected off the hands of a Monrovia defender and into the hands of receiver Alex Villalobos for a 27-yard gain.
After a defensive penalty moved the ball into Monrovia territory, Guerrero again connected with Villalobos for a 27-yard touchdown. Guerrero scored a two-point conversion on a quarterback sneak to give San Gabriel its only lead of the game.
A poor kickoff gave Monrovia favorable field position on the ensuing possession and quarterback Blake Heyworth went to work. He completed passes to Luke Williams and Brandon Wingenbach to move the ball to San Gabriel's 20-yard line.
From there, Heyworth threw a pass into the end zone that was initially bobbled by De'Shawn Ramirez, but Ramirez recovered to make an incredible somersault catch in one of the game's most sensational plays.
Guerrero went right back to work on the Matadors' next drive, rushing for two first downs and throwing for another. Facing fourth down and eleven yards to go at Monrovia's 40-yard line, Guerrero rolled out and threw an incomplete pass, but a pass interference penalty on Cade Schultz kept the drive alive.
Despite the penalty, Schultz was a force on defense, sacking Guerrero three times.
Guerrero took advantage of the possession's revival and completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Villalobos. It was Villalobos' 21st touchdown catch of the year, illustrating why the duo was one of the most feared combinations in the Mid-Valley division.
"We've been playing together since we were freshman and he's always been my go-to guy," said Guerrero.
Guerrero's two-point conversion attempt failed and the teams went into halftime with a 14-14 tie.
"We made the proper adjustments at halftime and came out like it was 0-0," said Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox. "We spread (our linebackers) wider and doubled-up on Guerrero. We weren't gonna let him beat us."
The adjustments certainly paid off because it was all Monrovia in the second half.
The Wildcats opened the half in their 'wildcat' offensive formation with Ramirez lined up at quarterback. Ramirez immediatley broke free for a 32-yard run.
The drive stalled at San Gabriel's 6-yard line, but, facing fourth down, Bias crashed through the line and into the end zone for a touchdown.
The Matadors' ensuing possession began and ended on the game's most consequential play. Following a touchback, a bad snap sailed over Guerrero's head and was recovered Ellis McCarthy at San Gabriel's 8-yard line.
Monrovia punched the ball in on a quarterback sneak by Heyworth.
As if San Gabriel's luck hand't already turned, placeholder Darius McClain mishandled the snap on the kick attempt, scrambled to the sideline and floated a pass into the end zone that was caught by Schultz.
The Matadors punted on their next two possessions, each of which were answered by a Monrovia scoring drive, including Bias' third touchdown.
"I'm so proud of (Bias)," said Maddox. "Not just because of the football player he's become, but because of the young man he's become."
Bias' total yards continued to climb as Monrovia kept the ball on the ground to run the clock, as did the total yards of Ramirez.
Ramirez scored twice in the fourth quarter, including a 66-yard touchdown run with three minutes remaining to put an exclamation point on the championship. He ran for 147 yards in the game.
The Wildcats outscored opponents 185-69 in the playoffs - a dominant run that seemed unlikely when the team opened the season with a 1-3 record. It's Maddox's second championship in his four years at the helm of Monrovia football. He's 2-1 in championship games.
"This feels great and we're going to enjoy it," said Maddox. "But we gotta keep working. I hate to say it, but after Christams, we're right back to work."
9:51 - M: Bias 12 run (Bryant kick)
6:40 - SG: Villalobos 22 pass from Guerrero (Guerrero run)
4:10 - M: Ramirez 20 pass from Heyworth (Bryant kick)
1:06 - SG: Villalobos 15 pass from Guerrero (run failed)
8:33 - M: Bias 6 run (Bryant kick)
6:41 - M: Heyworth 1 run (Schultz pass from McClain)
3:58 - M: Bias 1 run (Bryant kick)
9:13 - M: Bryant 35 kick
7:16 - M: Ramirez 8 run (Bryant kick)
3:18 - M: Ramirez 66 run (Bryant kick)