There used to be a time Concord De La Salle would come to Southern California and beat up on opponents with its veer offensive attack, precision blocking and aggressive defense. No more. Call it the changing of the guard in California high school football.
Santa Ana Mater Dei handed the Spartans a 35-21 defeat in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game on Saturday night before 4,823 at Cerritos College. It was the third consecutive year the Spartans have fallen in the final, with the Monarchs (13-2) inflicting back-to-back defeats.
De La Salle (12-1) made the Monarchs work for the win. After falling behind 28-7 through three quarters, the Spartans closed to 28-21 with 6:09 left. A 68-yard touchdown reception by Lumagia Hearns and a one-yard touchdown run by James Coby gave new life to the Spartans. But Shakobe Harper scored his third touchdown of the game on a 15-yard run with 3:55 left. Harper finished with 122 yards in 22 carries.
The opening drive of the third quarter gave De La Salle a clear warning the Monarchs were focused and meant business. Holding a 14-7 halftime lead, Mater Dei turned to quarterback Bryce Young, who connected on passes of 24 yards to Bru McCoy and 15 and nine yards to Michael Martinez. Harper ended the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run. Young finished 18-of-25 passing for 296 yards and two touchdowns.
The lead expanded to 28-7 when Mater Dei recovered a De La Salle fumble on the 45 (the Spartans lost three fumbles). A 36-yard pass to Sean Dollars set up a one-yard touchdown run by Harper.
Last season, Mater Dei defeated the Spartans 52-21. De La Salle has a much improved defense, one that shut out Folsom in August. Folsom scored 84 points on Friday in a regional game. But just as quarterback JT Daniels and his great group of receivers shredded the Spartans last season, Young enjoyed similar success. The junior showed poise and a cannon for an arm when needed. Martinez and McCoy were his go-to receivers, and his offensive line provided ample protection.
Young had touchdown passes of 27 yards to Cameron Gardner and 37 yards to McCoy in the first half. A bad punt snap set up Gardner’s touchdown. Grant Daley caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Hale for the Spartans’ only score in the second quarter after Mater Dei had opened a 14-0 lead.
Mater Dei’s defense played well to disrupt De La Salle’s rushing attack. Linebacker Steele Dubar had two tackles for losses and Darion Green-Warren had a key tackle for a loss to help stop a De La Salle drive. Mater Dei’s Evan Bennett, a 298-pound tackle, was making life difficult for De La Salle’s 235-pound center.
Mater Dei played without several players held out of the game after a social media incident in the locker room following the Monarchs’ Division 1 championship game win over Bellflower St. John Bosco. One of the players seen sitting in the stands on Saturday was standout cornerback Elias Ricks, who had nine interceptions this season.