Monte Vista wins Grossmont Valley championship

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Monte Vista senior running back Jahmon McClendon only needed a couple of yards.

The Monarchs (9-1, 4-0 Grossmont Valley) were stuck after West Hills junior linebacker Jake Maheu downed a punt at the one-yard line with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. Senior quarterback EJ Henderson took the snap and handed off to McClendon on a simple dive up the middle to give the offense some breathing room.

McClendon hit a hole in the line and ran right through the aggressive Wolfpack defense for a 99-yard touchdown.

Monte Vista senior running back Jahmon McClendon only needed a couple of yards.

The Monarchs (9-1, 4-0 Grossmont Valley) were stuck after West Hills junior linebacker Jake Maheu downed a punt at the one-yard line with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. Senior quarterback EJ Henderson took the snap and handed off to McClendon on a simple dive up the middle to give the offense some breathing room.

McClendon hit a hole in the line and ran right through the aggressive Wolfpack defense for a 99-yard touchdown.

“When I scored I just looked back and I looked at my O-line running down and I’m like ‘Thank you guys for opening that hole for me,’” McClendon said. “I wouldn’t be nothing without my O-line.”

Senior kicker Jason Hernandez dropped the ensuing kickoff between the Wolfpack’s returners and blockers. Monte Vista senior defensive end Bryant Adams sprinted in to catch the live ball off a high bounce to give Monte Vista first-and-10 from the 31-yard line.

McClendon capped the short drive with a 14-yard touchdown run to put the Monarchs ahead 14-0 in their eventual 35-0 victory. With the win, Monte Vista claimed the Grossmont Valley League title with a perfect 4-0 record.

“We’re going to celebrate,” head coach Ron Hamamoto said. “But we’ve got to see where we get seeded in the playoffs and go back to work.”

McClendon finished with 378 yards and five touchdowns. Most of the damage was done before halftime — at the break McClendon already had 306 yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s spoiling me,” Hamamoto said. “I’m a pretty good coach when I’ve got a running back like that. Kid is really talented, we’re going to miss him next year.”

While McClendon’s gaudy numbers get most of the attention, Friday’s win was the Monarchs’ third shutout of the season. Opponents have only scored more than 20 points against Monte Vista twice — the Sept. 9 22-21 double-overtime loss against Christian and the 42-26 win over Bishop’s two weeks later.

Senior defensive lineman Blake Schmidt said the Monarchs’ 36-35 loss in the 2017 5-A Southern California Regional Finals motivated them to improve.

“Our D-line stepped it up so much this year,” Schmidt said. “We got bigger, faster, stronger in the offseason. That loss against Katella in the semi-finals at state, that really sat bad with us so we all just grinded.”

Schmidt, Hamamoto and McClendon all said the second-quarter onside kick was especially devastating for West Hills (8-2, 3-1 Grossmont Valley) because the Wolfpack run a triple-option offense designed to protect a lead.

“If you get behind and they start milking the clock and keeping the ball away from you, it’s real tough,” Hamamoto said. “So the lead was huge in the second quarter.”

McClendon put it simply.

“It felt like we kind of took their self-esteem away,” he said. “But they were a hard-fighting team and I wish them the best in the playoffs.”

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