SANTA ANA - Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson walked off the field at Santa Ana Stadium exhausted, blood trickling down from his cheek.
“One of the kids head-bumped me,” he said. “But it’s good.”
It always is when you win. Mater Dei did, 53-42, thanks to a stunning comeback against Alemany of Mission Hills on Friday in a CIF-SS Pac-5 Division second-round game at Santa Ana Stadium. Mater Dei, ranked No. 2 in the county and the division’s fourth seed, will play at top-seeded St. Bonaventure of Ventura in the semifinals next week.
Mater Dei (10-2), which missed the playoffs last year, is making its second appearance (2010) in the semifinals since the Pac-5 formed in 2006.
“It’s a great win for the program,” Rollinson said. “The kids believed the whole time. It was good high school football. My hat is off to that ballclub. But I’ll tell you what, I’m proud of my kids. They never gave up. They kept making plays.”
Especially in the final seven minutes. The Monarchs trailed, 42-31, in the fourth quarter when quarterback Chase Forrest hit Ben Humphreys for a 49-yard touchdown. After Alemany went three-and-out, Mater Dei drove again behind the running of JC Genova, who capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown to give the Monarchs a 46-42 lead.
Humphreys, a sophomore, intercepted Alemany on the ensuing possession and returned it to the Warriors 10. Genova scored two plays later to seal it.
“My hat is off to my coaches,” Rollinson said. “We drill the two-minute. We try to put them in situations like that, where they’re down and getting tired.”
Alemany (9-3) trailed, 23-21, at halftime. The Warriors soon took the lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by De Shone Randall, his second score of the game. The contest continued in a back-and-forth fashion as Monarchs tight end Thomas Duarte came away with a jump ball in the end zone for his second touchdown. Duarte, who also had two sacks, finished with five receptions for 138 yards.
“I had to,” Duarte said of his big plays. “I had to for this team. Coach asked me to carry this team.”
He had a lot of help. Forrest completed 15 of 26 passes for 313 yards and four TDs, the running backs gained 189 yards and the defense had five sacks, two interceptions and allowed just 7 total rushing yards.
“There was a whole bunch of them out there that were determined not to let us lose,” Rollinson said.
Alemany quarterback Devon Dunn, under constant pressure, completed 10 of 23 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Steven Mitchell had two touchdowns. Desean Holmes added a 28-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors their 42-31 lead. Alemany’s longest possession lasted just 2:41.
“We knew they were going to make plays,” Rollinson said. “We told them, just don’t get down. Just keep bringing it.”
Consecutive turnovers by Mater Dei in the second quarter changed the complexion early, turning what looked to be a potential Monarchs blowout into a shootout. Alemany recovered a Mater Dei fumble and scored two plays later, cutting its deficit to 17-14. Two plays after an Alemany interception, Mitchell made it 21-17 by turning a short slant into a 63-yard TD.
Mater Dei jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter by scoring on its first two possessions. Forrest connected on a short toss to Nikolas Little, who bounced off a defender and ran into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. The Monarchs defense recorded sacks on three consecutive plays on the ensuing drive to set up prime field position. Genova scored from the 1.
Mitchell responded with a blazing 92-yard kickoff return to make it 14-7.
“We never gave up,” Duarte said. “We have fight. This senior class has fight.”