Servite's Xavier Hernandez gets picked up by Mater Dei's aggressive and effective defense during the first half of Friday's Trinity League game at Angel Stadium.

Mater Dei defense stars in pounding of Servite


ANAHEIM – The focus in recent weeks has centered around Mater Dei’s offense and, in particular, the play of its freshman phenom, JT Daniels.

Friday night the Monarchs’ defense reminded everyone just how good it can be, and did so on what’s perennially regarded as the county’s largest stage.

No. 1 Mater Dei scored 14 points off a pair of second-quarter turnovers in its Trinity League showdown against No. 6 Servite, turning a once-close game into a lopsided 42-10 affair at Angel Stadium.

POSTGAME TALK: How Mater Dei beat rival Servite

Leading 7-3 after the opening quarter, Monarchs junior defensive back Roman Kafentzis returned an Aaron Simpson interception 62-yards for a score. Less than a minute later, senior linebacker Jed Smith recovered a Sammy Duarte fumble near midfield and returned it 38 yards deep into Servite territory.

Brandon LaMarche powered his way 6 yards into the end zone on the next play, and in 61 seconds time, Mater Dei (7-1, 2-1) had overwhelming control of a 21-3 ballgame.

“Phenomenal first half by the defense,” Monarchs coach Bruce Rollinson said. “Roman comes up with the pick for the score, then Smith takes one deep and we answer with points. That was all our defense.

“I thought we were steady on offense. It’s one of those battles we knew what we had to do. We knew it was a big game. We knew about the rivalry, but we also know our situation.”

LaMarche was equally as impressive as his defensive mates, finishing with 160 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. The senior back busted four runs of 20-plus yards in the opening half in tallying 130 yards by the break.

“Coach Rollinson puts a lot of pressure on us seniors coming into the game, so I definitely am excited that we got the W,” LaMarche said. “As you saw, we started playing our brand of football again and we got our confidence back, so we hope we can keep it riding, keep rolling on it for the rest of the season.”

Mater Dei took a commanding 28-3 lead into the locker room, but the Friars (3-5, 1-2) refused to quit. Senior cornerback Keyon Riley opened the second half with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, chipping into Mater Dei’s lead.

Servite failed to score any points the remainder of the evening, however. Quarterback Aaron Simpson completed 19 of 39 passes for 126 yards. The Monarchs linebacking corps of Smith, Curtis Robinson and Faavae Faavae limited the Friars dual-threat signal caller on the ground, holding Simpson to 32 yards on 11 attempts.

“The two big turnovers in the first half really put us in a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” Friars coach Scott Meyer said. “Our guys never quit. I love our heart and I love the effort our guys put in.”

Mater Dei will travel to Saddleback College to take on JSerra on Friday. Servite hosts Santa Margarita at Cerritos College.

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