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Mater Dei vs. Long Beach Poly: The Postmortem


Long Beach Poly and Mater Dei renewed their championship rivalry and the Jackrabbits prevailed, 35-17, to claim the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division championship game in front of 12,736 on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.

Long Beach Poly won the highly-anticipated rubbermatch and is now 2-1-1 in championship games against Mater Dei. The two teams meet in three consecutive Division 1 finals from 1997-99. Poly is 17-3-2 in championship games (Correction: I missed Poly’s 1980 Coastal Conference title in the original post).

The Jackrabbits scored on their first three possessions to take an early 21-3 lead and Mater Dei found itself playing catch-up the rest of the way.

Poly used direct snaps to running backs Gerard Wicks and Manu Luuga to wreak havoc on Mater Dei’s defense. Wicks and Luuga burned the Monarchs with their speed.

QB Tai Tiedemann threw a 21-yard TD pass to Juju Smith and a 38-yard TD strike to Thomas Tucker. Those two TD passes sandwiched Luuga’s 71-yard TD run to give the Jackrabbits a 21-3 lead with 10:06 left in the first half.

Because Mater Dei was facing such a deficit so early it was forced to take chances. The Monarchs moved the ball all night, but got stopped on fourth down and time and time again.

Monarchs QB Chase Forrest is only a sophomore and has tons of potential, but he took a pounding against the Jackrabbits, whoc sacked him five times, knocked him down multiple times and intercepted him once. But Forrest showed a lot of heart. He was 28 of 53 for 308 yards and one TD. That’s a heck of a performance against that ferocious D.

Juju Smith was as impressive on defense as he was on offense. And he made a class move in the third quarter. Mater Dei’s stud receiver Thomas Duarte made a spectacular diving catch that sent him crashing out of bounds. Duarte was ruled out of bounds. Smith was covering on the play and he gave Duarte a high-five on the way to the huddle.

Another superstar on display on Saturday night was UCLA-bound linebacker Jayon Brown. This guy was everywhere on the field. He was delivering hits in the secondary, stuffing run plays, getting pressure on the pass rush and he returned a fumble 14 yards for a TD. He finished with 8 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Cal-Hi’s Mark Tennis said he believes Poly will play Clovis North in the CIF state Division 1 regional next week when the pairings are announced on Sunday.

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