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Mater Dei breaks St. John Bosco's grip on Trinity League
NORWALK – Mater Dei’s special teams provided the second-half spark. The Monarchs’ defense sealed a streak-snapping victory.
Amon-Ra St. Brown returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown early in the second half and an interception by Jalen Cole was eventually cashed in when Shakobe Harper ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as Mater Dei ended St. John Bosco’s Trinity League winning streak at 23 games with a 26-21 victory Friday.
In front of an estimated crowd of 9,500 at Cerritos College, the top-ranked Monarchs (8-0, 3-0) rallied from a 21-12 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to stun the four-time defending Trinity League champions.
Mater Dei’s defense put the final touches on the victory as safety Xavier Bell broke up a fourth-down pass from the Monarchs 41 with 55 seconds left.
“It’s pretty good,” said Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson, whose team snapped a six-game losing streak against Braves, dating back to 2010. “The kids, they believed in themselves and they never got their heads down. … They’re loose, they’re relaxed yet when it comes time to tee it up, they can hit you.”
Said Cole, a senior cornerback, "(We) finally snapped their streak. I don't feel like it even really set in yet that we beat them. Every year I've been here, we've lost. ... We control our own destiny now."
Speedy quarterback Re-al Mitchell of St. John Bosco (6-2, 2-1) gave Mater Dei all it could handle with his running (18 carries, 117 yards), but the Monarchs’ intercepted him twice and held him to 28 yards passing in the second half.
Cole, who committed to Montana St., made a diving pick with 8:11 left in the fourth at the St. John Bosco 43. Six plays later, Harper, a sophomore running back, scored on a 1-yard run and the PAT by Chase McGrath made it 26-21 with 7:01 remaining.
Running back Raphael Jones keyed Mater Dei's game-winning scoring drive with a 12-yard gain on first down. Harper later added a 15-yard burst to the 7 on third-and-1.
St. Brown sparked Mater Dei early in the second half with his punt return for a touchdown, cutting the Braves lead to 14-12. Mater Dei's 2-point conversion failed.
"I kind of felt we were back in it," Cole said of Amon-Ra St. Brown's the return.
But St. John Bosco responded with an 80-yard scoring drive -- capped by a 15-yard TD run by Demetrious Flowers -- to build a 21-12 lead with just under six minutes left in the third quarter.
After the ensuing Mater Dei drive ended with a jarring hit by Bosco's Travis Tuitasi on Jones, the Monarchs’ special teams provided another spark. Punter Ryan Stonehouse nailed a 51-yard punt that pinned the Braves at their 1 after a short fumble.
Mater Dei’s defense received key plays from linebackers Sal Aguilar and Syrr Barnes and nose tackle Austin Faoliu on the ensuing drive, forcing another punt to open the fourth quarter.
The Monarchs then drove 65 yards for a 15-yard TD reception by Osiris St. Brown, who dove the final 3 yards to trim the Bosco lead to 21-19 with 8:47 left in the fourth.
The TD pass from JT Daniels was his longest play of the game. The Braves dropped extra defenders into pass coverage to limit the sophomore to a season-low 135 yards. But Mater Dei’s defense and special teams picked up the slack.
Stonehouse averaged just over 50 yards on five punts. Aguilar ended Bosco's second-to-last drive with a big hit on a third-down screen pass to Terrance Beasley. Defensive end Nathan Logoleo (team-high 10 total tackles) and linebacker Jackson McCleery also were active.
“We kind of knew we won it Monday with preparation and just working hard,” Cole said. “Our coaches prepare us so well. A lot of that stuff, we knew it was coming … I knew the defense was going have to close it, (considering) the way their defense was playing.”
Said Rollinson, "I can't say enough about our defensive performance in the second half. ... You got to mention Stonehouse."
St. John Bosco led, 14-6, at half thanks to their ground attack and defense.
McGrath opened the scoring with a 36-yard field on the first possession but the Monarchs’ problems with penalties surfaced quickly.
A 39-yard TD pass from Daniels to a wide open Amon-Ra St. Brown was negated by a holding penalty.
St. John Bosco responded by driving 80 yards for a 1-yard TD run by Mitchell on third-and-goal. The Braves’ 11-play drive featured 11 runs and one pass attempt, which drew an interference call against the Monarchs’ secondary.
Mater Dei drove back to the St. John Bosco red zone again but settled for another field goal. McGrath kicked a 38-yarder to trim the Braves’ lead to 7-6 with 15 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Mater Dei’s defense produced some of its best plays in the second quarter.
Early in the period, safety Chase Ault recorded a tackle on a fourth-and-2 that gave the Monarchs the ball on their 42. But Mater Dei’s drive was stalled by face mask and holding penalties.
St. John Bosco capitalized with a nine-play 85-yard scoring drive capped by a 10-yard TD run by Flowers, who extended the Braves’ lead to 14-6 with 3:31 left in the half.
Mitchell showed his arm with a 35-yard completion to Berkeley Holman to the Mater Dei 15 to setup the score.
Outside linebacker Roman Kafentzis intercepted Mitchell with 1:51 left in the half but the Braves forced a three-and-out.
"I thought the defense started playing well in the second quarter," Rollinson said. "I told the defense, 'You keep ballin.' "
Mater Dei finished the first half with nine penalties for 94 yards. The Monarchs ended the game with 13 penalties for 144 yards.
But when Mater Dei needed to make big plays in the second half, it did. The interception by Cole and the punt return for a TD loomed critical as Bosco outgained the Monarchs, 376-228.
The Monarchs, however, might not be done with the Braves this fall. "There's a good chance this game is played twice this year," Bosco coach Jason Negro said before the game.
Said Rollinson of Bosco, "That's a good football team. We'll enjoy this and we'll get ready for Servite, baby!"
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