When Crespi High won the Big Five Conference title in 1986, one of the first phrases out of Bill Redell’s mouth was something along the lines of “I’m glad we won because it shows a Valley team can play with the big boys in Orange County.”
Crespi rolled to the title then, but since, it has been hard times behind the Orange Curtain.
Thursday night at Santa Ana Stadium, Mater Dei was the latest to deliver a huge offensive blow to the Crespi midsection, rolling up 450 yards in a 42-28 nonleague win.
Somebody must have schooled Crespi well in the theories of defensive detente, because Mater Dei rolled up 295 yards and scored 4 times in the second half to break open a 14-14 tie. This was anything but glad glasnost.
Five weeks ago, Crespi lost, 35-20, to Servite, one of Mater Dei’s Angelus League rivals. To say the Celts get little respect in Orange County is an understatement: All night long the public-address announcer referred to them as “the Colts.”
Payback, as they say, is tough.
“I guess they’re getting even,” Redell said. “They’re coming right at us and we can’t stop them.”
From the opening kickoff of the second half, Mater Dei (4-4) used the same combination on offense to riddle Redell and the Celts (4-4). The Monarchs took the kickoff and drove 76 yards in 7 plays--all but one a running play. Running back Kealii Clifford carried 5 times in the drive, gaining 48 yards.
Crespi could not stop the tide. Clifford finished with a season-high 196 yards in 27 carries and scored on runs of 1, 15 and 7 yards.
Clifford’s third touchdown came with 9:57 to play, giving Mater Dei a commanding 35-21 lead. Crespi scored to close to within 7 but again could not stop the Monarch offense.
“I guess you guys are getting tired of me saying we’re going to be a good team,” Redell said. “We just got handled tonight. Their offense just flat-out handled our defense.”
The Monarchs did it through the air as well. Quarterback Danny O’Neil completed 11 of 17 passes for a season-high 231 yards. Included was a 49-yard scoring pass to receiver Tony Pena, who caught 5 passes for 121 yards.
O’Neil, Pena and Clifford simply overmatched the Crespi defense, which knew coming in who they needed to stop.
“That’s what we saw on film,” Redell said. “Numbers 9, 84 and 41.”
The trio outperformed Crespi’s high-powered offensive tandem of tail back Russell White and quarterback Ron Redell. White gained only 26 yards in 10 carries and left the game in the second quarter after sustaining a blow to the head in the closing moments of the first quarter.
Redell, for the third consecutive game, looked sharp. He completed 20 of 30 for 270 yards and 1 touchdown, teaming with White 6 times on shovel passes. White caught 10 passes for 165 yards, including a 48-yard shovel pass for a score to cap Crespi’s first possession.
Crespi actually led, 7-0 and 14-7, but the Monarchs solved the Celts’ defense in the second half.
After Clifford scored to give Mater Dei a 35-21 lead, Crespi took advantage of a 39-yard kickoff return by Leonice Brown to pull within a touchdown. Fullback Quinn Fauria bulled in from the 1 to make it 35-28 with 7:36 remaining.
Crespi held Mater Dei on its next series and regained possession with 5:43 left, but Redell was sacked on third and 18 at the Crespi 14.
Once Mater Dei regained possession, it was all over. The Monarchs drove 75 yards in 7 plays for the final score, a 1-yard sneak by O’Neil.