If there were one clear lesson learned Saturday during the seven-on-seven Dana Hills passing tournament, it's that Santa Ana Mater Dei has a capable replacement for graduating all-star Thomas Duarte.
Jonathan Lockett, a defensive back-receiver, showed that he's ready to take on increased responsibilities. He was the best player on the field from morning until early evening in leading Mater Dei to a 7-0 record. He caught the game-winning two-point conversion in the championship game against West Hills Chaminade, a 14-13 victory.
Duarte, a receiver-linebacker headed to UCLA, meant so much to the Monarchs, who made last season's Pac-5 Division championship game. But Lockett is faster and just as athletic. And the Monarchs have a strong supporting cast. Quarterback Chase Forrest, who still doesn't have a scholarship offer, outplayed several higher-profile quarterbacks. He didn't even get to show off his strong running ability because there's no rushing the passer in seven-on-seven competitions.
Mater Dei has little experience at the receiver position, but that doesn't mean the Monarchs don't have talent with the likes of juniors Kyle Penniston and Ben Humphreys. It's still going to come down to what kind of line Mater Dei has for running back Justin Allen.
"It's those old plow horses back in the stable," Coach Bruce Rollinson said.
Chaminade lost only two games all day, both to Mater Dei. Quarterback Brad Kaaya hung tough even though he was sick. Receivers Donovan Lee and Brandon Lee were effective for the Eagles, along with safety Jojo McIntosh.
Newhall Hart and Santa Margarita each reached the semifinal behind young quarterbacks with bright futures.
Hart junior quarterback Brady White combined with junior receiver Trent Irwin to torch Upland with three touchdown passes. Only Lockett covering Irwin shut down the passing combination. K.J. Costello, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, was effective all day for Santa Margarita, teaming up with Kyle Sweet.
It was a good day for tight ends. Three top college prospects were in action — St. Bonaventure's Bryce Dixon, Mater Dei's Penniston and Hart's Davis Koppenhaver. All displayed excellent catching skills.
As for what it means to do well in a passing competition, Rollinson said before the nine-hour day began, "I don't know what to expect. That's what I like about these things. You have an opportunity to see how younger players respond."