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Mater Dei defense stifles Orange Lutheran
COSTA MESA – Before Mater Dei performed its customary Pride Drill late Friday night, Bruce Rollinson grabbed Adrian Contreras and walked to him to the front of the Monarchs' formation.
The Mater Dei football coach then raised the arm of the hard-charging junior running back in triumph, and in a symbolic salute to the way the Monarchs won their biggest game of the season.
Contreras shined in a team-oriented and ultra-physical effort that pushed the No. 3 Monarchs past No. 2 Orange Lutheran, 15-0, at Orange Coast College and to a second-place finish in the Trinity League.
A coin-flip for third place between Orange Lutheran (7-3, 2-3), Servite (5-5, 2-3) and JSerra (7-3, 2-3) was won by the Friars with the Lancers fourth and the Lions fifth. The top-three finishers are guaranteed automatic berths to the Pac-5 Division playoffs but expect the Lancers and Lions to be major contenders for at-large berths.
Filling in for the injured Justin Allen (ankle), Contreras rushed for 77 yards on 17 carries, most of which he fought to keep alive as long as possible. But more important, he helped Mater Dei (8-2, 3-2) dominate time of possession and keep a high-powered Lancers' offense off the field.
Mater Dei's defense also delivered, stopping all three of Orange Lutheran's fourth-down conversion tries and producing a safety forced by outside linebacker Ben Humphreys. The Monarchs went 3 for 3 on fourth-down conversions.
Even the Monarchs' special teams produced as Johnathan Shenk kicked two field goals.
“I challenged the defense to come up big tonight and play their assignments, play their responsibilities for 48 minutes and be as physical as they've ever been,” Rollinson said.
“The second thing I did was I called for a total team effort. I didn't single out the offense. I didn't single out the special teams. … The whole team had to do it.”
Mater Dei dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 32:01. Orange Lutheran's triple-option offense – which entered averaged over 37 points -- got just 15:59.
“I thought we pushed them around a little bit,” Rollinson said. "We ate a lot of clock."
The Monarchs' pass rush grounded the Lancers' passing attack, which finished with 32 yards on two completions. Orange Lutheran rushed for 162 yards, including a game-high 93 from quarterback Luke Langdon.
Contreras, however, helped Mater Dei beat Orange Lutheran at its own game. The Monarchs rushed for 173 yards.
“I ran hard this week but it really wasn't me, it was more my line that got us going,” Contreras said. "(And) it's more the Monarch pride that I was born with, that I was raised with, with my two brothers (Armando and Juan) coming here. Filling in for Justin is big shoes."
Said Rollinson, "The Contreras kid, coming in for Justin and playing that well."
Bruising fullback Ronald Nickerson scored the only touchdown with a 3-yard run with 4:07 left in the third as Mater Dei opened a 15-0 lead. The junior capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up 4:27 and came after Orange Lutheran missed a 21-yard field goal.
Matthew Rockett sparked the drive with a 31-yard reception from QB Chase Forrest on a short pitch and run. Running back London Iakopo and receiver Jacob Welch provided the down-field blocking.
The Lancers opened the second half by driving for a first-and-goal at the Monarchs 6 thanks to a 42-yard run by Hudson Hankins, who was chased down by safety Johnny Johnson. Orange Lutheran reached the 3 but missed the field goal.
Even when Mater Dei didn't score, it consumed the clock. The Monarchs drove from their 13 late in the third for a 33-yard field goal attempt, which missed and ended a possession of 6:58.
Mater Dei cornerback Jonathan Lockett joined Johnson with a touchdown-saving tackle in the second half. Linebacker Grant Moore added a sack on Orange Lutheran's final possession.
Mater Dei led, 8-0, at halftime on the strength of two short field-goals by Shenk and a safety by Humphreys.
The Monarchs opened the game with a 15-play drive that chewed up almost seven minutes and ended with a 25-yard field goal by Shenk.
Mater Dei extended its lead to 5-0 late in the first with the safety, which was set up by a punt by Timothy Strader. The senior pinned Orange Lutheran at its 1 with 47-yard punt, and on the next play, Humphrey hit Langdon in the end zone. The hit forced the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 25 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Mater Dei employed another time-consuming drive – 13 plays – to drive for a 27-yard field goal by Shenk.
As for Allen, Rollinson said the senior would return for the first round of the playoffs next week.
"I'm going to go one game at a time," Rollinson said. "Find out who (we) got first Sunday and pray for a home game. I'd love to be at the (Santa Ana) Bowl."
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