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Mater Dei roars back into Pac-5 finals
VENTURA - Mater Dei senior wide receiver/linebacker Thomas Duarte said earlier this season that the Monarchs were back.
Consider Mater Dei back in a huge way.
The Monarchs used a swarming defense and a balanced and opportunistic offense to defeat top-seeded St. Bonaventure of Ventura, 21-0, in a CIF-SS Pac-5 Division semifinal at Ventura High on Friday.
One season after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1986, fourth-seeded Mater Dei now returns to the CIF championship game for the first time since 2004.
The Monarchs (11-2) chanted "We're going to the 'ship!" before departing the field for their long but certainly joyful ride home to Orange County.
"Mater Dei is back," said Duarte, who made big plays on both sides of the ball. "People say we left. I felt like we didn't go (any where)."
The Monarchs will play Long Beach Poly in the Pac-5 final this coming Saturday at Angel Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Poly beat St. John Bosco, 13-10, in the other Pac-5 semifinal Friday.
"We're not done yet," Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said. "I commend my coaching staff for a great game plan on both sides of the ball. I commend the kids for executing. And the most important thing is we pride ourselves on defense.
"We just shut out a pretty good football team."
Mater Dei used its base 3-4 defensive front and a lock-down secondary to hold St. Bonaventure (11-2) to 64 yards rushing and 45 passing.
The Monarchs limited bruising running back Zach Green to 84 yards on 14 carries and also intercepted rising sophomore quarterback Ricky Town twice.
Mater Dei sacked Town five times, including four times in the first half.
"We worked on it all week," Rollinson said of the Monarchs' defense. "Pursuit. Be violent. Get some hats on the ball. Don't let them break a big one on you. Just bend but don't break, and that's exactly what happened."
Defensive coordinator Eric Johnson said the Monarchs stayed in their base defense throughout the game, and tackled well.
Mater Dei handed St. Bonaventure its first shut out since 1995.
"They're a running team," Johnson said of St. Bonaventure. "We stopped their run."
Duarte's interception and 19-yard return to the St. Bonaventure 38 midway through the third quarter helped Mater Dei open a 14-0 lead. Treavon Coley capped the ensuing drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on the third play of the fourth period but Duarte extended the drive with a leaping, 17-yard reception on a fourth-and-15.
The Monarchs' defense later forced St. Bonaventure to turn the ball over on downs at the Seraphs 41 with 6:05 left. Coley added a 29-yard touchdown run as Mater Dei took a 21-0 lead with 2:56 left.
Rollinson gave Coley -- one of Mater Dei's key seniors -- a long hug when he reached the sideline after the score.
The Monarchs led, 7-0, after a fog-covered first half thanks to a 90-yard scoring drive in the final 2:27 of the second quarter.
Quarterback Chase Forrest capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jonathan Lockett with 17 seconds left. The juniors connected coming out of a timeout after a reception by Ben Humphreys, who was injured on the play.
Lockett lined up in the slot and was clustered with two other receivers in the formation.
Forrest completed 5 of 5 pass attempts for 76 yards on the scoring drive. A leaping, 32-yard reception over the middle by Duarte sparked the drive and moved Mater Dei to the St. Bonaventure 30 with 34 seconds left.
"But you know what the spark is? It's the senior class," Rollinson said. "They want this thing very badly."
Duarte finished with a sack, an interception and six catches for 83 yards.
The Monarchs also got sacks from Humphrey, outside linebacker Grant Moore, Coley and safety London Iakopo.
Coley also grabbed an interception on a pass deflected by hard-hitting safety Johnny Johnson.
Forrest completed his final nine passes to finish 13 for 14 for 160 yards. He also guided an offense that didn't commit a turnover.
The Monarchs captured their county-record ninth and last CIF title in football in 1999. The Monarchs tied Long Beach Poly in the '99 Division 1 final, 21-21, at Angel Stadium.
"Mater Dei-Poly is historic," Duarte said. "We'd love to write a new chapter in history."