From drones hovering in the sky and sounding like a pack of bees to teenagers making spectacular one-handed catches, Saturday's 20-team seven-on-seven passing tournament at Huntington Beach Edison lived up to expectations as the summer tournament of the year for fans of high school football.
L.A. Cathedral quarterback Bryce Young, wearing glittering gold cleats and being followed around by a camera crew filming a documentary, was flinging the ball flawlessly and showing off an arm that has him considered the No. 1 passer for the class of 2020.
Bellflower St. John Bosco, having seven defensive backs with college scholarship offers, kept using its aggressive, physical defense to take down opponents.
Lancaster Paraclete, with quarterback Brevin White and receiver Melquan Stovall proving tough to stop, made it to the semifinals.
Edison, led by veteran quarterback Griffin O'Connor and basketball standout David Atencio, also advanced to the semifinals.
To no one's surprise, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams from last season, St. John Bosco and Santa Ana Mater Dei, were the last teams left in the championship bracket. The final result, though, left Mater Dei fans scratching their heads in awe.
Quarterback J.T Daniels didn't play all day while resting a sore arm. Receiver Amon-ra St. Brown didn't play because of a sprained finger. And yet, the Monarchs came away with a one-point victory over St. John Bosco when sophomore Elias Ricks made a decisive late interception.
When a sportswriter told Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson he deserved passing league coach-of-the-year honors, Rollinson said, "Great."
In fact, it was a remarkable accomplishment for the Monarchs, who went 2-2 in the morning and were hardly anyone's prediction to win the championship. Carter Freedland, a quarterback for last year's 10-0 freshman team, directed Mater Dei to wins over Paraclete in the semifinals and the Braves in the final.
There was a leaping one-handed catch by tight end Michael Martinez for an extra point that was NFL-like. There was an acrobatic catch from incoming freshman Josh Lord. Receiver Chris Parks was a standout from morning to afternoon. Linebacker Jack Genova played with nine stitches from a cut Friday. And linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu was an imposing figure in the middle.
"I'm pleased they rose up in the afternoon," Rollinson said. "We started making plays and the confidence level went up. I can't say enough about our defense."
Of course, winning a passing tournament title "doesn't mean anything," Rollinson said. Well, sort of.
Mater Dei and St. John Bosco are loaded with quality linemen, so both schools should feel good about what the fall will bring when the pads go on. For the Monarchs to win without probably their two best skill-position players demonstrates their depth up and down their lineup.
Covina Charter Oak defeated La Puente Bishop Amat to win the consolation title. The tournament had so many quality teams that City Section champion Harbor City Narbonne went 0-4 in its bracket that included Mater Dei and Cathedral.
Official football practice begins in three weeks. Mater Dei and St. John Bosco are scheduled to play in their Trinity League game Oct. 13 at St. John Bosco. They might want to start selling tickets soon, because that will be another game of the year when linemen join the fun and tackling is legal.