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Loyola Defense Sets the Tone

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Loyola defense didn’t waste any time setting the tone Saturday night against Santa Ana Mater Dei in a battle involving the top two Serra League teams.

The Cubs, ranked No. 10 in the Southland by The Times, sent No. 2 Mater Dei backward on its first three plays from scrimmage and kept the Monarchs on their heels until their final offensive series.

The unit’s effort paved the way for a 14-7 victory at Glendale High and gave Loyola, the defending Southern Section Division I champion, the edge in the Serra League race.

“I don’t know what it was,” said Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson. “We got driven back on the opening drive.... We’ve just got to regroup.”

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After stopping the Monarchs on the opening drive, Loyola (7-1, 3-0) scored on its first two possessions -- both on short runs by Trason Bragg -- to take a 14-0 lead with 2 minutes 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

“It was one of the worst quarters I’ve even seen Mater Dei play,” Rollinson said.

The Monarchs made their biggest defensive play of the game early in the second quarter, stripping the ball from quarterback Casey Frost during a sack and recovering at the Loyola 11-yard line.

Two plays later, Mater Dei running back James Brunt Jr. scored on a five-yard run to cut Loyola’s lead to 14-7.

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Mater Dei quarterback Kyle Woody completed just two of 10 passes in the first half but had four on-target passes dropped, including a potential 49-yard touchdown reception by the team’s leading receiver, Robert Dubrish III, late in the first half. Brunt also had a 60-yard run on the previous play shortened by a clipping penalty.

Bragg limped off the field late in the first half after taking a hard hit following a four-yard run. He did not return to the offensive backfield in the second half, but did play sparingly on defense. Chad Peppars, Russell Oka and Frost helped keep the chains moving in the second half.

“We’re lucky enough to have a lot of backs we can put in,” Frost said.

The Monarchs (6-2, 2-1), a semifinalist in the Division I playoffs last season, could not take advantage of a muffed punt midway through the third quarter that gave them possession at the Loyola 32.

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Mater Dei drove the ball to the five-yard line, but Brunt lost a yard on third down and Woody was chased out of bounds on a bootleg shy of the first down marker. Loyola defensive end Hamilton Augustine was not fooled on the play, holding his ground after the fake handoff.

“My coach told me to watch for that play,” Augustine said. “He said they were going to come back with it.”

Mater Dei had one last opportunity, marching into Loyola territory with less than five minutes remaining, but Woody overthrew tight end Adam Dedeaux on fourth and two and Loyola ran out the clock.

“We rushed the pass and overthrew the open man in the flat,” Rollinson said. “It’s just one of those nights, what do you do?”

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