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Who will rule the Rio Hondo?

Football: Blair, La Cañada, San Marino and South Pasadena all vie for playoff bids.

October 08, 2011|By Andrew J. Campa and Andrew Shortall, andrew.campa@latimes.com
(Tim Berger/Staff…)

PASADENA — It wasn't long ago that the Rio Hondo League was known for its parity.

League champions changed yearly and every team didn't go more than a few seasons without reaching the playoffs.

Over the last few years, however, those trends changed, starting at the top.

The Monrovia High football program has captured four straight league crowns and is in the midst of a 17-game league winning streak as league play begins Thursday.

The Wildcats' physically-tough nature and talented playmaking capabilities are embodied by their blue chip defensive end Ellis McCarthy, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound specimen who has offers from virtually every PAC-12 school.

However, while the Wildcats seem like an overwhelming favorite, there are vulnerabilities.

For starters, McCarthy's play has been limited, as he injured his knee in the second game this season.

Also, Monrovia's brutal schedule has them 1-4 heading into Thursday's league opener at La Cañada, which is also 1-4.

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"The thing about the Spartans is they're always able to get up for Monrovia," La Cañada Coach Dan Yoder said. "We have to look at them just as any other team. If we can execute, we can make things happen. We just have to keep it going for 48 minutes."

League opponents may actually serve as relief for La Cañada, as four of the Spartans' five nonleague foes — Maranatha, Arroyo, Crescenta Valley and Alhambra — are ranked in the CIF Southern Section Division polls.

The Spartans have been without starting quarterback Matt Jones, who suffered an injury against Crescenta Valley on Sept. 23 and has sat since.

Jones' replacement, Grant Owen, has completed eight of 27 passes for 51 yards while running for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.

Fullback Kyle Herron and tailback Andy Paynter have led La Cañada's ground game.

Herron has run for a team-best 193 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries while Paynter has rushed for 141 yards and two scores on 20 carries.

There's a high level of excitement at South Pasadena, purposefully cultivated by first-year head Coach Marty Konrad.

"We had a good [nonleague] schedule and some competitive games," Konrad said. "Now all that matters is league and we have a big opener at Temple City."

Konrad's gamble to start sophomore quarterback Joey Harmon has paid dividends, as the youngster has limited mistakes and found a reliable target in senior tight end Justin Cornford, who hauled in seven receptions for 112 yards against Maranatha on Friday.

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