MONROVIA - It was definitely a tale of two halves.
The Monrovia High football team ended a stalemate Saturday night and broke a 14-14 tie in with three touchdowns in the first eight minutes of the third quarter and went on to clobber visiting San Gabriel High, 53-14, in the CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division Championship Game.
Monrovia broke the tie on a fourth-and-one play from the Matador six-yard line when senior running back Marquise Bias scored one of his four touchdowns to give the Wildcats a 21-14 lead with 8:33 left in the third quarter to cap a 54-yard drive.
San Gabriel got the ball back on its own 20-yard line. However, a bad snap sent the ball past quarterback Andy Guerrero and was recovered by the Wildcats, who scored just a few plays later on a one-yard TD sneak by quarterback Blake Heyworth.
The turnover and subsequent score pretty much deflated the Matadors' hopes of keeping up with the defending CIF champions.
San Gabriel coach Jude Oliva said Monrovia was just too tough to overcome.
"They're a great time," he said of the Wildcats. "We knew we made some mistakes. They capitalized."
After being victorious in all five Almont League contests after starting the season 1-4 and winning three playoff contests by narrow margins against Maranatha High, Arroyo High and San Dimas High, Oliva said he was just very proud of his team.
"We're a resilient group," he said of the Matadors. "A lot of people didn't think we'd be here, but we played hard. They're just a better team."
The first half was very evenly played with each team trading touchdown for touchdown. After a scoreless first quarter, the Wildcats marched the entire length of the field, capping a 99-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown scamper by Bias.
However, San Gabriel matched Monrovia on its next drive. Led by Guerrero's running and passing, the Matadors moved 80 yards in nine plays and got into the end zone with a 22-yard scoring pass from Guerrero to wide receiver Alex Villalobos.
After spotting the Wildcats another touchdown with 4:10 left in the first half to make it 14-8 Monrovia, San Gabriel kept itself in the game marching again 80 yards in eight plays and scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass again from Guerrero to Villalobos to tie it at 14 at the half.
Guerrero ended the game completing 12 of 22 passes for 168 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
(Shel Segal can be reached at