You'd think something big was happening at St. John Bosco on Friday night. There was a Rolls-Royce parked in the school parking lot. Television cameras were stationed around the football stadium. The sideline looked more crowded than one of those lines of people waiting to get a new iPhone.
Welcome to opening night in the Trinity League, where No. 1 St. John Bosco was taking on No. 2 Santa Ana Mater Dei. There were more than 350 people who signed up for a tailgate party for $35 apiece, which included a meal, two drink tickets, parking and a midfield seat in the bleachers.
The game lived up to expectations with a back-and-forth second half and St. John Bosco (5-1, 1-0) holding on for a 28-25 victory.
Mater Dei (5-1, 0-1) lost the ball three times on fumbles, the last with 1:48 left to halt a drive that had reached the St. John Bosco 39.
Earlier, Traveon Beck of St. John Bosco took a fumble 69 yards for a touchdown and a 28-18 lead with 11:35 left.
Mater Dei faced second-and-15 from the 28. The Monarchs had put together an 88-yard scoring drive to close to 21-18 on a Noah Delgadillo 11-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion catch by Kyle Penniston. But quarterback Jack Lowary lost the ball trying to escape the St. John Bosco pass rush, and Beck picked it up for an uncontested romp into the end zone.
The Monarchs pulled to within 28-25 with 4:43 left on a botched St. John Bosco punt attempt, with Jalen Cole getting the touchdown.
Individual players stepped up. Linebacker Ronald Nickerson of Mater Dei had three tackles for losses. Wisconsin-bound tight end Penniston caught seven passes for 121 yards. Lowary shredded the St. John Bosco secondary, completing 20 of 29 passes for 343 yards.
But mistakes by the Monarchs proved costly. There was a missed 22-yard field goal, three fumbles by Lowary and an offside penalty on fourth down that kept a St. John Bosco drive alive.
Josh Rosen, despite limping much of the second half while favoring a knee, passed for 212 yards. Kaylin Franklin caught six passes for 148 yards and one touchdown. Sean McGrew rushed for 123 yards and one touchdown.
It was a tough night across the Trinity League. Servite needed a 31-yard field goal from Andrew Acosta with five seconds left to defeat Orange Lutheran, 28-25. JSerra held on for a 35-28 win over Santa Margarita.
"Any team on any given night can beat anybody in this league," St. John Bosco Coach Jason Negro said. "It's great to be 1-0."