Santa Ana Mater Dei running back Shakobe Harper wasn’t intimidated by the idea of Sean Dollars transferring in, even though Dollars played the same position, arrived with four stars next to his name and a full-ride scholarship to Oregon.
In an era when the next best opportunity is just some transfer paperwork and an address change away, the 5-foot-7 senior, who led the Monarchs in rushing last season as a junior, stayed put and used the season opener against La Puente Bishop Amat to show why he was confident his role wouldn’t change.
Harper sliced and diced the Lancers defense for 162 yards in 13 carries with two touchdowns as Mater Dei dismantled Bishop Amat 42-14 Friday night at Santa Ana Stadium.
“I knew my coaches trusted me and believed in me,” Harper said as to why he didn’t consider transferring. “We run a two-back set and me and Sean are in together 90% of the time. I knew they were going to find a way to make it work.”
That one-two punch was clicking as Dollars added 119 yards and three touchdowns of his own while playing alongside Harper. The Monarchs as a whole rushed for 369 yards and six touchdowns.
Harper scored the first touchdown of the game on a 31-yard run early in the first quarter and Dollars barreled in the second with 3:01 left in the opening period, helping Mater Dei (1-0) jump out to a quick 14-0 lead.
“They share the load, they block for each other and they’re a good tandem,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said. “They respect each other’s abilities and they know we’re going to count on them this year.”
Bishop Amat (0-1) cut its deficit in half, 14-7, on a four-yard pass from Blake Archuleta to Rueben Murillo at the 9:41 mark of the second half after Lancers linebacker Christopher Lopez intercepted Monarchs quarterback Bryce Young to set up the good field position.
Harper scored his second touchdown of the first half on a 35-yard run up the left sideline, helping the Monarchs take back control of the game and head to halftime with a commanding 28-7 lead.
Dollars finished the job in the second half, scoring two of his three touchdowns.
“Our relationship is amazing,” Harper said. “We really click, he’s a cool dude and we relate really well.”
Mater Dei was without a handful of key starters on both sides of the ball, and amid swirling rumors of whether those absences were injury-related or for disciplinary reasons, Rollinson simply answered: “No comment.”