Mater Dei's Jedediah Smith recovers a bad snap for a touchdown during the finale minutes of Friday's CIF-SS Pac-5 Division second-round playoff game against Serra of Gardena. The Monarchs then succeeded on a 2-point conversion and held on for a 28-27 victory.

Mater Dei's gamble pays off with victory over Serra


GARDENA – Trust comes when the coaching staff has what it is believed to be the perfect game-winning 2-point conversion play ready with a spot in the CIF-SS Pac-5 semifinals at stake.

True elation arrives when that play, in this case a pass from JT Daniels to Curtis Robinson, works to perfection and the defense forces a clutch three-and-out to preserve the victory.

Welcome to the life and times of the Mater Dei football team in the waning stages of Friday’s 28-27 road victory over Serra of Gardena.

“We practiced that play a million times,” Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels said. “Coach (Dave) Money dialed up the perfect play and I always trust that Curtis (Robinson) was going to do his job and all I had to do was my part. I wasn’t even surprised. I know Rollo has all of his trust in us.”

“Brandon LaMarche and Coach Rollo gave us a speech at halftime that we had to get back to the basics, what we’ve been doing all year. We came out with a passion and we just played Mater Dei football.”

Mater Dei (10-2) will host top-seeded Centennial of Corona in the semifinals Friday.

The momentum swung quickly in Mater Dei’s favor in the fourth quarter. With 4:28 left in the game, Serra took a 27-20 lead on Job McGinty’s 30-yard run.

The Monarchs went three-and-out on their next possession and punted the ball back to the Cavaliers. On third down, Serra had a bad snap over quarterback Khalil Tate’s head that he fell on for a 9-yard loss. Punting from its own 29, Serra again had a bad snap, the punter tried to snare it, but Mater Dei's Jedediah Smith fell on it in the end zone for a TD.

With 1:51 left, Coach Bruce Rollinson didn’t hesitate leaving the offense on the field for the two-point conversion.

“It was there the first time because they didn’t have anybody covering the receiver,” Rollinson said. “The second time, I just had to look at one other thing and I would call a time out and kick the point, but I knew they didn’t have anybody on Curtis … and I was feeling good about two points, otherwise, I would be eating crow right now.”

After taking a 7-0 lead on Chase Ault’s 75-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown, the Monarchs were forced to catch-up, literally and figuratively and Tate put on a dazzling highlight show of avoiding sacks and running down the field. Tate finished with 356 rushing yards, but had 290 of that in the first half.

Serra led 20-10 at halftime, but Mater Dei found some immediate life to start the second half, going 72 yards in five plays ending with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to Andre Collins. With less than 2.8 seconds left in the quarter, Mater Dei caught Serra thanks to Chase McGrath’s 43-yard field goal that tied the score at 20.

“We were dropping balls, overthrowing balls,” Rollinson said. “Obviously coming out and driving it on the first drive of the second half was huge. The kids never stopped believing.”

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