LONG BEACH — St. Monica’s season finale against St. Anthony just got a bit more interesting.
Santa Fe League leader Salesian has been forced to forfeit all seven of its victories for using an ineligible player, California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons stated via e-mail.
The scenario puts St. Monica’s football team in position to win the league crown with a victory at St. Anthony tonight in Long Beach. It would be the first league title for St. Monica since 2002.
“The players are all fired up,” St. Monica Head Coach Larry Muno said of the prospect of playing for a championship. “But, [St. Anthony] is also battling for the league title as well.”
St. Monica, which lost to Salesian earlier this season, now enter the game 7-2 and 3-0 in league play. They are atop the standings with St. Anthony at 2-1 in league and 4-5 overall. St. Genevieve is also in the mix with a 3-1 record in league. Muno said that there is a scenario that has St. Monica missing the playoffs if they lose and a series of events take place in the other Santa Fe League games this week.
With that stated, if St. Monica wins, they take home the league title and secure one of two automatic CIF-SS playoff bids. A third team may be awarded a wild card selection, but there are no guarantees.
St. Monica enters the game as close to full health as possible this late in the season. Senior quarterback Matthew Partyka, who missed parts of two games this season, returned to the starting lineup last week and torched St. Genevieve for 317 yards passing and five touchdowns during a 38-21 victory.
Muno said that Partyka is healthy and expects him to continue what has been a strong season for a St. Monica team that had weathered through a number of tough seasons. Muno, in his second season as head coach, has led the Mariners to 10 victories in two seasons with the prospect of notching number 11 tonight.
Confident that his team is prepared for the challenge, Muno admits to being wary of St. Anthony running back Thomas Brown, a player he considers one of the top performers in the league. Brown has run for 924 yards and has scored six touchdowns. Brown forms a one-two combo with quarterback Donny Torres, who has rushed for 625 yards and 12 scores. He has also passed for three touchdowns.
Despite St. Anthony’s potent offense, Muno said the game will come down to a simple formula.
“We need to be able to run the ball and not turn the ball over,” Muno said of the secrets to winning.