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Spartans fall, but earn playoff berth

Football: La Ca¿¿ada loses to Monrovia, but wins coin flip giving it a spot in CIF postseason.

November 17, 2010|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

La Cañada High's football team still had something to cheer about in the post-game huddle after losing to host Monrovia, 34-10, on Friday night.

"I told them we're not eliminated yet," said Spartans' Coach Dan Yoder, in regards to what got his team cheering. "The coin flip went our way."

Since La Cañada, Temple City and South Pasadena each finished the season with a 3-2 league record, a coin flip determined which team finished second, third and fourth in Rio Hondo. South Pasadena lost the coin flip, finishing fourth, which put La Cañada in third place, due to the fact that it lost to the Rams, 27-15, on Oct. 22.

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The Spartans bid for a playoff as the third team in league was accepted.

They will play Covina, the No. 1-seeded team in the CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division, in a 7 p.m. Friday first-round game at Covina. The Colts are the Valle Vista League champions.

"It feels good, but we got our work cut out for us because we're going to be playing a No. 1 team," La Cañada quarterback Scott Gray said. "But I'd rather have a shot than no shot."

"It would have been better to beat Monrovia and control our own destiny instead of having to rely on an at-large bid, but it's great we still had a chance," La Cañada cornerback Jeff Barker said.

It looked like the Spartans (5-5, 3-2 in league) had a chance to pull off an upset early on against Monrovia. La Cañada played tough defense, effectively containing the Wildcats' (8-2, 5-0) primary offensive weapon, quarterback Nick Bueno, for most of the first half.

Monrovia was looking to score the game's first touchdown, driving the ball to the Spartans' 20-yard line after the teams traded field goals to tie the score at 3 early in the second quarter. But Bueno threw the ball right into the hands of Barker, who stepped in front of a Wildcat receiver and returned it to La Cañada 37-yard line.

"It felt good to help my team to stay in the game, but it wasn't enough in the end," said Barker, who had two interceptions for the second game in a row, which shifted momentum back to the Spartans.

Momentum shifted dramatically again when La Cañada was held to a three-and-out on the ensuing drive. The punt went for a negative-4 yards after nearly being blocked, putting Monrovia at La Cañada's 36. The Wildcats took advantage of the good field position, as Bueno rushed for a 36-yard touchdown on the next play, giving the Wildcats a 10-3 lead.

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