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Mater Dei toughness too much for Mission Viejo
SANTA ANA – All season Mission Viejo had been the best football team in Orange County. The numbers backed it up. The rankings backed it up. The eye test backed it up.
Stats, opinions and looks can be deceiving.
Mater Dei provided the truth Friday with a 21-14 victory against Mission Viejo in a Pac-5 Division second round game at Santa Ana Stadium.
The Monarchs will play in the semifinals next week against No. 3 seed Long Beach Poly, which beat the Monarchs in last year's section finals. The game will likely be held at Veterans Stadium.
“I thank the Trinity League for this win,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said. “We have to battle every week for every inch. We played for 48 minutes. That was business as usual for Mater Dei.”
No. 2 seed Mission Viejo (11-1) went unbeaten in the regular season for the second consecutive season, only to again lose in the second round. Diablos coach Bob Johnson was in disbelief afterward.
“I can't explain what happened,” Johnson said. “We couldn't have shot ourselves in the foot any more times than that. It was ridiculous. We got what we deserved. We haven't played like that the entire year. Mater Dei gets the credit.”
It continued an improbable run for the Monarchs, who were in the midst of a two-game slide earlier this month. The blueprint for Mater Dei (10-2) looked much like it did the previous two weeks in victories against Orange Lutheran and Oaks Christian of Westlake Village: suffocating defense and a clock-eating run game.
Mission Viejo, ranked No. 5 in the state, came in averaging 48.2 points a game and had scored at least 28 points in every contest. The Diablos scored on their first possession, a 2-yard pass from Ian Fieber to Daniel Marx.
It was all Monarchs from there, as the state's ninth-ranked team intercepted three passes and forced two punts while building a 21-7 halftime lead.
“A lot of people thought, 'Where's Mater Dei at?' ” Rollinson said. “That was good ol' Mater Dei football right there, playing great defense and then just pounding on them.”
Matthew Rockett ignited what initially was a stagnant Monarchs offense with a 22-yard reception. Three plays later, he caught a short pass in the flat and scooted into the end zone for a 28-yard score to tie early in the second quarter.
The Monarchs got it right back when cornerback Jonathan Lockett intercepted his second pass. After a 24-yard gain from Justin Allen, Chase Forrest threw a strike to Jacob Welch on third-and-long for a 21-yard touchdown and 14-7 lead.
Mater Dei regained possession two plays later with a short field thanks to an interception by Rockett. Running back London Iakopo made it count with a 3-yard touchdown to give the Monarchs the 21-7 lead late in the first half.
Diablos tailback Alex Suchesk exited with a hamstring injury just before the turnover and did not return. He had nine carries for 64 yards.
Monarchs linebacker Grant Moore forced a fumble in the second half as the defense continued to dominate. Forrest completed 7 of 11 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Mater Dei ran 43 times for 162 yards.
Fieber completed just 11 of 32 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
The two teams hadn't met since Mission Viejo beat Mater Dei in the 2010 Pac-5 semifinals. They played every year from 2001-06, with the Diablos winning each time except for the last one.
"I think playing Mission Viejo fired them up," Rollinson said. "We begged them all week, 'Give us a couple more inches,' and that's what they did tonight. They found those inches. Together, those inches add up to a lot of feet."
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