ARCADIA -- The 10th time was the charm.
Monrovia finally got the monkey off its back, edging Whittier Christian, 38-8, Saturday night to claim the CIF Mid-Valley Division championship -- the program's first in 10 trips to the finals. Third-year coach Ryan Maddox checked one thing off his to-do list.
He'll set his sights on his next objective: Getting wideout Jay Henderson a scholarship to play collegiate football.
"He had an incredible game," Maddox said. "He's a gifted athlete. We're going to do everything we can to get him playing at the next level -- he's got that kind of talent."
Henderson did it all for the Wildcats (12-2), scoring four touchdowns and piling up 229 yards of total offense. His 69-yard punt return for a touchdown broke a scoreless tie in the second quarter. Monrovia never looked back.
"I was just thinking about scoring and getting my team pumped," Henderson said. "It was about getting the energy up."
The electric punt return did the trick, as the Wildcats scored the game's first 31 points. Henderson followed his return by catching a 28-yard touchdown pass from Nick Bueno, then added scoring receptions of 63 and 46 yards midway through the third quarter.
"I was in the zone," Henderson said. "The coaches talked about being in the zone the whole week, so I just had that mindset."
Monrovia's defense was in the zone too, just like in the previous 10 games. Whittier Christian quarterback Stephen Anderson wasn't given the chance to get going offensively, as the lefty completed just four of his first 15 pass attempts -- much of that a product of 6-foot-5 Ellis McCarthy's pressure up front.
Anderson was picked off three times and finished with 134 yards on 15-for-38 passing. Backfield mate Grant Escobar had 115 yards rushing, though a bulk of that came when the game was decided. The Heralds (12-2) did have a good look when both teams were scoreless early in the second quarter. But an Escobar fumble at the Monrovia 18 ended a promising drive.
Monrovia's defense proved too fast, too hungry for a Whittier Christian team that did not score less than 21 points in any game this season.
"Our defense is so fast to the football," Maddox said. "They're aggressive, they're physical. I thought last year's defense was excellent; this one was better. They stepped it up."
The Wildcats did not allow more than 14 points in any of their last 10 games.
"It feels great to be a CIF champion," said Henderson, a senior. "I hope they get it next year."
Perhaps the 11th time will be a charm, too.