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PAUL RODRIGUEZ, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Mater Dei's Chase Forrest has been strong since taking over as the Monarchs' starter.

Mater Dei QB adjusts quickly to spotlight

FOR OCVARSITY.COM

SANTA ANA – It wasn't his first touchdown pass of the season, but at the time, it was his most significant.

Just over a minute into Mater Dei's Pac 5-Division first-round game against Lakewood, junior quarterback Chase Forrest connected with wide receiver Thomas Duarte for a 40-yard touchdown pass.

It was Forrest's first pass of the game, as well as his first attempt after being named the Monarchs' starting quarterback the Monday leading up to the game.

"It was humbling," Forrest said of being selected the starter. "It was one of those things where I'd been working to get it for so long. I was honored, but I knew what I had to do."

Throughout the season, Forrest and senior Ryan McMahon had been rotating under center. McMahon had started all 10 regular season games, but Forrest received significant playing time throughout the year.

"We felt pretty good about rotating the quarterbacks," said Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson, whose team faces Long Beach Poly on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Angel Stadium for the Pac-5 Division championship. "We felt that both boys handled it well, but in the course of that rotation, Chase just kept getting more confidence.

"The reality is it's one of the more difficult decisions I had to make, but I felt Chase had earned the spot. Then all of a sudden we uncover this other problem."

That "other problem" was an injury to McMahon's wrist. Having originally hurt it in Mater Dei's victory against Carson in September, McMahon played through the pain before tweaking the wrist again late in the season. Having signed a letter of intent to play baseball at USC, the senior received surgery on the wrist.

Forrest proved he was more than ready for the stage, performing under the spotlight like a veteran.

The junior completed his first nine passes of the first-round game and finished 12 of 14 for 167 yards and four touchdowns in the 71-10 blowout of Lakewood.

"It's really loud," Forrest said of the playoff atmosphere. "You have to be loud with your cadence, and as time progresses it gets louder and louder, but playing (throughout the season) definitely helped."

A week later, Forrest and the Monarchs found themselves in a much different position: trailing by 11 points with seven minutes remaining in their second-round game against Alemany.

With the team in trouble, Forrest connected with Ben Humphreys for a 49-yard touchdown pass, sparking a late, three-touchdown rally that gave Mater Dei a 53-42 victory in a shootout.

Forrest completed 15 of 26 passes for 313 yards and tossed four touchdowns for a second consecutive week.

"Each game we're giving him a little bit more of the sophistication of the offense," Rollinson said. "And the most important thing for that young man is to not put this whole thing on his shoulders."

The entire Monarchs' offense has played an important role in Forrest's progression. The offensive line is providing the junior QB with time in the pocket, and a physical rushing attack keeps opposing defenses honest, limiting how aggressive they try to be.

"All my skill groups have been amazing," Forrest said. "They're a huge help to me, and if anything goes wrong they're always there to pick up the team as well."

In particular, Forrest has found a connection with Duarte, the talented senior wide receiver. Duarte has been on the receiving end of five touchdown passes in the playoffs, and has put together his best three-game stretch of the season – 15 catches for 311 yards.

"He knows the history of the Mater Dei quarterback," Duarte said. "He knows the traditions, he knows the responsibilities that are put on the Mater Dei quarterback, but he took it on like any Monarch would."

A touchdown pass last week in a 21-0 shutout victory over St. Bonaventure gives Forrest a 9-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio throughout the playoffs in addition to a 74 percent completion percentage.

"In a way it's getting easier because I'm getting more and more experience, but the pressure comes on," said Forrest. "Coach always says great players have to play great, and it's all preparation."

Since taking over the starting position, Forrest has taken no breaks. As the weeks go on, the stakes have gotten higher, as has the attention to detail.

"He's been with (offensive coordinator Dave) Money every lunch going over film, getting his reads down and getting the coverages down," Duarte said of Forrest. "He puts in a lot of effort. We're proud of him for that, and it shows on the field."

The junior quarterback is now faced with the most challenging hurdle of his young career – a date with rival Long Beach Poly.

"We see highlights every once in awhile of the Poly-Mater Dei games, and you always hear about it," he said. "It's just a huge rivalry and it's a blessing to be a part of it."

After Saturday, Forrest hopes future generations of Monarchs will watch his highlights against the Jackrabbits, particularly if it's of him and his teammates lifting the CIF trophy.


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