Madison's Pierre Cormier tries to find running room against Monrovia. The win advanced the Warhawks to the Division III State Bowl Championship.
MONROVIA, Calif. — The forecast for Saturday’s state playoff tilt at Monrovia High: Heavy doses of Madison running back and Arizona commit Pierre Cormier. Some razzle-dazzle from teammate and fellow Wildcats verbal Lee Walker. Maybe a few highlight plays by sophomore standout quarterback Kareem Coles.
The actual results: Cormier was bottled up, finishing with a season-low 36 yards on 11 carries. So was Coles, who accounted for just 79 yards of offense. Walker did, however, dazzle with a 91-yard kickoff return.
No, the heroes of the Warhawks’ 21-17 thriller over Monrovia in the Division III Southern California Regional championship victory came from the ranks of the unsung.
Senior linebacker Jamie Gomez scored Madison’s lone offensive touchdown on a 4-yard run and came up with two interceptions on defense — one he returned for a score, the other he snagged in the end zone.
Then it was junior defensive back Michael Garner sealing the victory with a pick of his own, snuffing out the Wildcats’ last gasp with just seconds left to play.
Madison (13-1) will look to finish its season with 13 straight wins next Saturday. The Warhawks will face Marin Catholic at noon in the Division III State Bowl Championship at the Home Depot Center.
It will be the second state final appearance for Madison, which in 2010 lost to Escalon in Carson after winning a San Diego Section title.
The Warhawks got their second chance at a state championship by overcoming a lackluster offensive effort with huge plays on defense. Perhaps none was bigger than Gomez’s first interception, the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder returning a Blake Heyworth throw 29 yards for a TD that gave Madison a 14-7 lead on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Monrovia (12-3) would respond, taking a 17-14 advantage with 5:44 left in the game on Heyworth’s 16-yard pass to Anthony Craft.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Walker burst through a hole and outraced speedy kicker/receiver Mason Bryant to the end zone, going 91 yards untouched and retaking the lead for the Warhawks.
It was one of two touchdowns scored by Madison while not on offense. The Warhawks finished with just 119 yards of offense.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, totaled 440 yards between their ground and air attacks. Darione Jones rushed for 118 yards on 15 carries, while Heyworth finished 18-of-29 for 196 yards and the two interceptions.
After Madison kicker Anthony Herrera left a 54-yard field-goal attempt well short on the game’s opening series, the Wildcats responded with a 9-play, 80-yard drive capped by Ge’Vontray Ainsworth’s 7-yard TD.