Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox was in the process of explaining his team's success when he glanced over at mammoth-sized defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy, who was sitting at a nearby table Monday at the annual CIF-Southern Section championships luncheon in Long Beach.
No need to say much else.
"He makes your defense, you build your defense around him," Maddox said of his highly touted player. "His presence frees up your linebackers to fly around and make plays. Ellis and our other defensive lineman demand blocks. Teams have to scheme for them."
McCarthy and the fourth-seeded Monrovia Wildcats (10-3), winners of nine straight, have allowed an average 17 points per game. They look to defend their Mid-Valley Division championship Saturday night against visiting San Gabriel (9-4) after knocking off top-seeded Covina in the semifinals.
"It's a tougher road because you become the target," Maddox said of defending the 2010 title, "but we've battled and played great football."
There's been growth, especially at the crucial quarterback position.
Junior linebacker George Frazier doubled as the team's signal caller to start the season, before Blake Heyworth was cleared to play. Heyworth has passed for 2,276 and 24 touchdowns, filling the void left by the graduation of dual-threat Nick Bueno, the reigning Mid-Valley player of the year.
"It's Blake's first year of varsity football," Maddox said. "He's a completely different player than Nick, more of a pocket quarterback who does a good job of distributing the ball to our athletes, spreading the field and creating holes for our running game."
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.