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Mater Dei knocks off No. 1 Santa Margarita
MISSION VIEJO - Mater Dei stunned Santa Margarita last season, but many called it a fluke. The Eagles were coming off a bye week and, it was said, they overlooked the Monarchs. The Eagles went on to win the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division championship and the Division 1 state title.
There was no overlooking Mater Dei (6-1, 2-0) this season.
The Monarchs, who missed the playoffs for the first time since 1988, were out to prove they were back.
No. 3 Mater Dei scored twice in the fourth quarter to seal a 24-7 victory over top-ranked Santa Margarita in a Trinity League game on Friday night at Saddleback College.
"It's a league game and, you know, I've been in his (Eagles coach Harry Welch's) shoes," Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said.
"It's tough to stay on top. We dealt them enough adversity, and we were making plays. We're going to enjoy it. I guarantee you that.
"But your bubble bursts if you turn around and lay an egg next week. You know, I think we learned our lesson about that last year."
Mater Dei had a 10-0 lead late in the third quarter before the Eagles made things interesting.
Santa Margarita (6-1, 1-1) drove to the Monarchs' 9-yard line and then disaster struck. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Sweet fumbled, and after a wild scramble, an Eagles running back recovered the ball at the 30-yard line.
The Eagles had to go for it on fourth-and-27, and Sweet connected with Connor O'Brien for a 30-yard touchdown to help Santa Margarita cut Mater Dei's lead to 10-7 with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
Mater Dei responded with an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive.
It was kept alive by Ryan McMahon's 28-yard pass to Thomas Duarte on third-and-8 from the Monarchs' 31. McMahon went to Duarte again on a 29-yard touchdown toss to give the Monarchs a 17-7 advantage with 8:43 remaining.
On the next play from scrimmage, Ben Humphreys intercepted a Sweet pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-7.
Santa Margarita was unable to get back in the game after Humphreys' interception.
"We kept them off-balance, we kept our confidence up and then your playmakers make plays, and that's Thomas Duarte and (J.C.) Genova on both sides of the ball," Rollinson said. "The backs ran hard. It was a heck of a night for the Monarchs."
The first half was a defensive slugfest.
Mater Dei took the opening kickoff and marched 89 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. McMahon was 3 for 3 for 42 yards on the drive.
Genova broke a 32-yard run and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run on the next play.
Santa Margarita, which has lost its star quarterback, Johnny Stanton, for the season to a knee injury, started Sweet at quarterback.
He had trouble getting any kind of rhythm going in the first half.
He finished 13 of 21 for 172 yards and one touchdown with one interception. O'Brien had eight catches for 122 yards.
Duarte had four catches for 78 yards to lead the Monarchs.
Genova and Justin Allen combined for 106 tough rushing yards.