HomeBlocksFront-GridLa Cañada Nearly Stuns Defending League Champ Monrovia

La Cañada Nearly Stuns Defending League Champ Monrovia

First published in the Oct. 13 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada High football team’s next big step in the Rio Hondo League is to do something they have not done since 2005: beat Monrovia, the class of the league for the better part of the last two decades.
The Spartans had the right game plan in place and took the host Wildcats to the limit, only to see Monrovia snatch back the victory, 42-35, in the final minute last Friday night.
“I’m proud of our kids for giving us a chance there at the end,” La Cañada coach Dave Avramovich said. “I’m super proud of them for not quitting and hanging in there. [The loss] just stings.”
The Spartans tied the contest at 35-35 with 35 seconds to go with a crucial touchdown drive followed by a two-point conversion.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Wildcat Carlos Hernandez scooped up the ball at the five-yard line and, 95 yards later, found the end zone.
“That is why Carlos is going to Washington State. He can make plays like that when they are needed,” Monrovia coach Chris Williams said.
La Cañada (4-3 overall record, 1-1 in league) made a desperation attempt in the final 10 seconds, but quarterback Macky Plocher was intercepted by Jaylen Moore just outside the end zone on the game’s final play.
“Hats off to [La Cañada]. They played hard. Their kids really came out and fought for four quarters,” Williams said. “That is a good-looking football team. They are starting to get their legs under them and they are going to be tough down the road in the playoffs.”
La Cañada’s stellar effort nearly ended a long drought as Monrovia notched its 16th consecutive victory over the Spartans. LC’s last win over the Wildcats was by a 22-6 score on Nov. 10, 2005.
The Spartans likely turned in their finest performance of the season last Friday and entered the fourth quarter with a 24-21 lead over the perennial powerhouse Wildcats. However, Monrovia regained the lead on its first drive of the fourth quarter when Brian Salazar Jr. tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Moore to make it 28-24 with 8:21 to go.
LCHS trimmed the lead to one on the ensuing drive when placekicker Royce Xiao connected on a 20-yard field goal. It was set up by a Plocher run in which the junior stepped out of a pile of bodies and sprinted away for a 57-yard gain.
However, just 20 seconds after LC’s field goal, Monrovia scored again when Salazar threw a short pass out wide to the left to Noah Ellison, who took it 62 yards for a touchdown and 35-27 Wildcat lead with 4:02 to go.
Early in the Spartans’ drive for the tie, Plocher was sacked hard and fumbled, but Spartan Griffin Milewski recovered the ball to retain possession. Later in the drive, the Spartans were facing a fourth down and 20 yards to go at their own 27-yard line, but Plocher hooked up with Trent Carey for a 36-yard catch over the middle. As the final minute ticked down, Plocher finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. The game-tying two-point conversion attempt saw Plocher fake a handoff, then run the ball straight up the middle, slamming into a Wildcat defender at the goal line to knot the game at 35-35.
But Monrovia’s Hernandez then delivered the game-winning kickoff return, essentially clinching Monrovia’s third consecutive league championship and 12th in the past 14 seasons.
La Cañada fell behind early, trailing 14-0 after the opening quarter. After the Spartans opened the game with a 12-play drive that took 5:16 off the clock but ended without points, Monrovia went 67 yards in four plays, capped with a seven-yard touchdown catch by Hernandez.
The Spartans fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and, four plays later, Monrovia turned the miscue into points when Salazar hit Moore for an 11-yard touchdown.
Early in the second quarter, La Cañada got on the board when Plocher hit Venneri for 23-yard touchdown throw over the middle. The ensuing Spartan kickoff was popped up into the air short. Wildcat Davonte Jones caught it and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown.
La Cañada scored again on a four-yard run up the middle by Cheung.
The Spartans’ defense then forced a three and out. The visitors got the ball back with 6:27 to go before the break and finished the drive with a 30-yard field goal by Xiao as time expired.
Cheug had a sack on the opening drive of the second half to force a punt. La Cañada then mounted a 55-yard, eight play drive culminating with a 12-yard touchdown run by Plocher to take the lead.
“I really thought we could come into the game and control the clock, the ball and take advantage of what they do defensively,” Avramovich said. “We did that in spots. We just had a couple really big mistakes.”
La Cañada ran 67 plays on offense Monrovia had just 27. The Wildcats had 11 plays in the first half, including just three in the second quarter, and 16 in the second half.
“They came out and switched it up a bit in what they had been doing. They did a really good job slowing the game down,” Williams said.
Plocher completed 15 of 29 passes for 228 yards. The junior also rushed for 102 yards on 13 carries (not including 30 yards lost on three sacks) with two touchdowns.
Corey Cheung had 22 carries for 74 yards and one touchdown. The senior also had three catches for 53 yards. Carey had four grabs for 82 yards while Anthony Venneri had 47 yards on two receptions, including the touchdown. Tyler Bond had four catches for 28 yards and Hayden Dancsecs two for 25 yards. Jake Hofman had one reception for 16 yards.

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