East County Sports

As expected. . . Monarchs back to championship game

University City tries to bring down Jahmon McClendon, of Monte Vista. / EastCountySports photo

Monte Vista’s AMIR CONLEY runs with the ball Friday night against host University City in the San Diego CIF Division 4 semifinals. / EastCountySports photo

EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL SDCIF PLAYOFFS – DIVISION 4 SEMIFINALS

MONTE VISTA MONARCHS 30, UNIVERSITY CITY CENTURIONS 20

 

By Ramon Scott

EastCountySports.com

 

UNIVERSITY CITY – There’s hardly been any doubt that the Monte Vista Monarchs have been a CIF championship contender throughout the 2017 season.

The dilemma for the Monte Vista coaching staff was to convince a bunch of teenagers that their comparably meager win count still puts them on equal footing with the other rivals in Division 4.

Elshaddai Levi hauls down a pass Friday night. / EastCountySports photo

Throw into the equation an earlier regular-season loss at top-seeded University City by a couple of scores and any young team might question their chances to etch their names into Monarch championship game lore.

However, behind a confident defensive effort early and a couple of late stands, Monte Vista will return to the section title game next Friday following a close, but not-so-close, 30-20 win over the City League champion Centurions Friday night.

For the second time this season, the Monarchs had three interceptions against UC, and junior rushing star JAHMON MCCLENDON shouldered most of the offensive load with 145 yards and two scores as Monte Vista led start-to-finish with still a little thrill over the final 12 minutes.

Monte Vista (7-5) will face undefeated San Diego High (12-0) at Southwestern College Friday at 3:30 p.m.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, we are going to be ready,” McClendon said. “This is what we’ve worked for. The coaches said all week that we weren’t underdogs.”

The fourth-seeded Monarchs got off to a 17-0 lead in the first half.

Monte Vista took six minutes and change off the first quarter clock to take a 3-0 lead on a field goal by junior JASON HERNANDEZ.

The Centurions drove into Monte Vista territory on its first series, but a deep ball was intercepted brilliantly by junior EMMIL HENDERSON, who took it in stride like he was the intended receiver while reaching the end zone resulting a touchback.

After UC returned the favor with a pick of its own, Monte Vista got another series stop thanks to a pass breakup by McClendon.

The Monarchs put together a decently-balanced drive, including a 9-yard completion to ELSHADDAI LEVI from Henderson that resulted in a first down in Centurion territory.

EMMIL HENDERSON has the ball following an interception Friday night. / EastCountySports photo

Monte Vista got inside the five and McClendon powered in from a few yards out to make it 10-0 after the PAT.

On the next series, the Monarchs defense powered back UC, driving them into a 3rd-and-26 from its own 17.

After the Monarchs gave it back, senior TORREY MACK, who already has a career of big plays in his back pocket, came up with a possible career moment with two minutes to go before halftime.

Mack jumped a screen route with such researched timing like he couldn’t wait for the Centurions to call that play.

The result was a 34-yard pick-six which gave Monte Vista a 17-0 lead.

“We watched a lot of film on our previous game with UC,” Monte Vista junior end BLAKE SCHMIDT said. “We made a lot of mistakes in that one, but our coaches really helped us correct all those mistakes and (UC) paid the price.”

University City (10-2) had a wonderful fade route in the left corner from quarterback Gunner Gray to Jurne Smith, who clearly got his left foot down for the score with just over a minute left in the first half, making it 17-6 at halftime after the Moanrchs blocked the low PAT.

After halting the Centurions to open the third, the Monarchs went on a drive capped by a McClendon run midway through the quarter from 26 yards off right side as Levi, Schmidt and RON BARRY pushed their men forcefully aside.

Four minutes later, UC got a big play pass of 30 yards to star wideout Casey Granfors, then capped a scoring drive on a run by E’lonie Rico to show that the Centurions still had fight.

Monte Vista celebrates Torrey Mack’s interception late in the first half. / EastCountySports photo

University City defense rose up and so did the UC fans after stopping another Monarch series and the Centurions’ speedy star Marcel Patterson, who made several big plays in the first meeting, finally got off his big play of the night on the first call of the fourth quarter, taking a 74-yard run to the house and bringing his team to within 23-20 after another missed point-after.

Monte Vista went south on several offensive plays in its next two series giving the home side even more the cheer, but the Monarch defense made a fourth-down stop at their own 32 on one UC scoring attempt, then made the final stop when the Centurions went for a 4th-and-3 from their own 19 with 3:04 left in the game and no time outs remaining.

“When we felt that momentum, some of the veteran leaders just stepped up in the huddle and said, this is going to be alright, we’re still going to win this,” Schmidt said.

The Monarchs pounded a few of their typical running plays and Levi earned the final score with 1:30 remaining.

“We just trust our linemen, we love those guys,” Levi said. “I want to thank (Jahmon). I’ve got his back and he’s got mine. And our lineman Ron and GERRY (ARELLANO), we trust and believe in them.”

McClendon added an interception late and the Monarchs got to end the game in victory formation in the red zone.

“We felt really confident before the game and in the locker room,” Schmidt said. “We were serious and ready to play.

“Torrey Mack with that wooooo, Jahmon with that pick, ISAIAH (GARDNER) with that sack late, those were critical moments,” Schmidt said.

The Monte Vista coaches may have preached to the Monarchs thay they shouldn’t be perceived as underdogs in these final playoff games, but the Monarchs athletic staff did a great job drafting their schedule to provide enough stimulating competition to make their team playoff ready while providing enough beatable competition to make their team seeding-relevant.

Monte Vista’s defense has shows steady improvement all season and Henderson’s emerging development as a runner and passer helps give the Monarchs plenty to be a threat to the Cavers undefeated season next week.

Monte Vista wrap up a UC runner Friday night. / EastCountySports photo

“We just need to work hard this next week and give it our all,” Levi said. “I don’t care who we play, I just want to play again.”

The San Diego coaching staff could likely take an opposite approach with their kids, telling them to look at the record, rather than the imposing film.

“I am so ready, we’re so ready,” Schmidt said. “We are ready right now, I guarantee you.”

Monte Vista has won two San Diego CIF Division 2 section titles, the last coming in 2003 over Helix, 20-3. The Monarchs also won the D2 title in 1995 defeating Escondido, 13-12.

The Monarchs will be making their fifth appearance in a section championship game, the last coming in 2013 when Sweetwater defeated the Monarchs, 7-0, for the section D4 crown. Monte Vista lost to Oceanside, 20-0, in the 1999 D2 final.

Now these Monarchs get surely an even-shot at joining the likes of Monte Vista championship greats MICHAEL WILEY, IAN MILLER, WILL GOODLOE, SHARROD DAVIS, DALLAS HUBBARD and DARRELL MACK against San Diego in the season finale.

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