Bruce Rollinson, the football coach at Santa Ana Mater Dei since 1989, was joking about what would happen on the bus ride home from Sacramento on Saturday night if his team’s 14-game win streak came to an end against Concord De La Salle in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game.
“I’ll be dumping them off on the 5 freeway if we lose,” he said.
All’s well in Monarch land. In fact, from the first game of the season on Aug. 25 through Saturday’s 15th game, Mater Dei never trailed.
“We don’t know what that feels like,” receiver Amon-ra St. Brown said.
En route to a 52-21 victory over De La Salle, the Monarchs (15-0) showed once again why they deserve recognition as the nation’s top high school football team.
It starts with an offense that returned 10 of 11 starters and just couldn’t be stopped as long as USC-bound quarterback J.T. Daniels is in control. From four top receivers to an offensive line that serves as Daniels’ personal protection detail to improving running backs in Shakobe Harper and Chris Street, it’s a unit with no weaknesses. Daniels had nine rushing touchdowns this season, a huge development from a year ago when he rarely took off.
Against De La Salle (11-2), Daniels ran for two touchdowns and completed 20 of 30 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. St. Brown caught eight passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
The first drive of the game highlighted all of Mater Dei’s offensive strengths. Daniels was four for four passing for 66 yards. He completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown, who made the ball spin on the ground in the end zone and picked up a 15-yard celebration penalty. Getting the ball to spin and spin took lots of practice.
“If it was tomorrow, it would look really good. In a high school game, he’s going to get flagged,” CIF executive director Roger Blake observed.
By the end of the first quarter, Mater Dei led 21-0 after a Daniels one-yard touchdown run and a Harper 15-yard touchdown run. De La Salle closed to 21-7 in the second quarter on a Kairee Robinson three-yard run. The Spartans then recovered the kickoff and were on the verge of giving the Monarchs a scare.
That’s when sophomore Zion Alefosio returned an interception 86 yards for a touchdown. The Monarchs ended the half with a 31-14 advantage.
Now comes the debate of just how good this Mater Dei team was. Rollinson had two teams that won national titles but this team could be his best one. It would be quite a game if this team could face the 16-0 Bellflower St. John Bosco team of 2013, led by Josh Rosen.
Rollinson couldn’t have been more relieved. He came in 0-4 lifetime against De La Salle and knew the Spartans would fight to the end.
“I don’t want this to come down to the final play,” he said earlier this week.
The Monarchs took care of business, just like they did from beginning to end in a season to remember.