It was fourth down and four yards to go on the 44-yard line in the third quarter of the Southern Section Division 1 championship game. The crowd of nearly 10,000 at Cerritos College was roaring. The situation called for a punt, but Santa Ana Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson stood calmly on the sideline, arms folded, placing total trust in quarterback Bryce Young to make the right call against Bellflower St. John Bosco.
“I said this a long time ago, ‘Don’t anyone tell him what to do’ because I don’t know where he’s going, but whenever he gets out there it’s magical,” Rollinson said. “He makes things happen. We’ve learned a lot from him. The kid never gets all watered up and never gets down. The positive influence he brought every day rubbed off on all of us. You just don’t get nervous with him.”
Young completed a five-yard pass for a first down, but in the end, despite 405 yards passing and five touchdowns, it was not enough to prevent Mater Dei from suffering its first defeat in a 39-34 loss to St. John Bosco.
It was the only blemish on a memorable season in which the 5-foot-11 senior proved that size hardly matters in setting the standard for excellence at the quarterback position. He completed 71% of his passes for 4,528 yards and 58 touchdowns.
Headed to Alabama, Young has been selected The Times’ player of the year in high school football for the 2019 season.
Every opposing coach that faced the Monarchs knew they had to come up with a game plan to deal with Young’s ability to improvise while staying cool under pressure. Whether facing a strong pass rush or encountering a team dropping back eight defenders, he found ways to stay effective.
One year after guiding Mater Dei to the Southern Section Division 1 championship and a victory over Concord De La Salle in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game, Young returned for his senior year with more velocity on his passes, more confidence in his play calling and more vocal in his leadership skills. Together, they produced the qualities seen in an All-American quarterback.
“It was a lot of hard work in the offseason,” Young said. “I feel there’s a lot of media attention about me playing well, but really it was a reflection how as a team we came together — my line giving me time, my receivers getting open, the running backs making it easy with the running game and protection.”
It was a remarkable season for quarterbacks. DJ Uiagalelei of St. John Bosco, headed to Clemson, shredded defenses with precision passing for the No. 1 team in California. Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar, headed to Washington, set a Southern Section record with 71 touchdown passes for a 16-0 team. And then there was Young, who week after week was a model of consistency.
Young came from L.A. Cathedral as a junior with Mater Dei fans having skepticism whether he was up to replacing J.T. Daniels, the Gatorade national player of the year. The verdict is in.
“He was bound and determined to come away as the No. 1 quarterback in the nation,” Rollinson said.
And Rollinson confessed that Young will go down as “the greatest quarterback” in Mater Dei history.