A 17-year drought without a Southern Section football championship is over for Coach Bruce Rollinson and his Santa Ana Mater Dei Monarchs.
You could sense defending champion Bellflower St. John Bosco might be in trouble early in the third quarter Saturday night as quarterback J.T. Daniels enjoyed so much time to throw that he made a Braves secondary filled with college prospects look overwhelmed.
Protected by the best offensive line in Southern California, Daniels, a USC commit, picked apart the Braves, completing 19 of 26 passes for 299 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-24 win.
It's the first Division 1 title for the Monarchs (14-0) since 1999.
It helped to have the best receiver in California in Amon-ra St. Brown, who caught eight passes for 150 yards and one touchdown, a 43-yarder to start the fourth quarter.
Of course, Mater Dei's roster is filled with exceptional receivers. Bru McCoy caught three touchdown passes and Nikko Remigio caught another.
Mater Dei will advance to its first CIF state bowl game and represent Southern California in the Open Division championship game Dec. 16 at Sacramento State. The opponent is expected to be Concord De La Salle.
Cerritos College was filled to capacity with a crowd announced at 11,976. If you got a parking spot, consider yourself lucky based on the long line of cars stuck on Alondra Boulevard.
This was worth the nuisance of a traffic jam to see the kind of big-boy football that's hard to replicate in Southern California.
The first half showed just how efficient and effective the Mater Dei offense can be. The Monarchs came away with a 21-10 halftime lead even though St. John Bosco's defense was holding its own in one-on-one battles. The difference was Daniels having the time to find his receivers.
The game started with Mater Dei putting together a 75-yard, 15-play scoring drive that took 7 minutes, 30 seconds off the clock. Three times the Monarchs converted on third down. Once they converted on fourth down. Shakobe Harper finished it with an eight-yard touchdown run.
St. John Bosco got a 21-yard field goal from Jacob Garcia early in the second quarter, but a muffed punt by the Braves set up a 12-yard touchdown on a diving catch by McCoy for a 14-3 Mater Dei lead with 4:46 left in the half.
The Braves were not in panic mode. They turned to quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who broke off runs of 13 and 20 yards and completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Jake Bailey with 1:10 left in the half.
Then came the real brilliance of Daniels. It took him 47 seconds and four plays to put up another touchdown. He completed passes of 18 yards to CJ Parks, 24 yards to St. Brown and 23 yards to McCoy for the touchdown. Each time, he was given ample protection by his line, led by Chris Murray and Tommy Brown.