Column: St. John Bosco too much for Servite in Trinity League showdown

St. John Bosco wide receiver Jode McDuffie outruns Servite linebacker Aden "Ace" Eckenwiler.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

For a spring high school football season that will have no playoffs and no ring ceremonies, you can always count on the best league in California, the Trinity League, to put on a show. The coaching is just too good and the athletes too fast, too strong and too talented not to provide drama and excitement.

Friday’s matchup of St. John Bosco taking on Anaheim Servite on a cloudless, cool evening in Bellflower enabled the select few in attendance and the many others watching on television or via the internet to enjoy a cherished sports moment.

It was a couple of hours of real distraction from life’s worries and concerns of the pandemic.


It had every chance to be the best game of the early spring season with real big-boy football. In week three, with both teams coming in 2-0 and the offenses scoring points in bunches, expectations were high. And by game’s end, everyone was treated to a back-and-forth classic.

St. John Bosco won 38-28 in an entertaining second half that featured players you’ll be seeing playing on Saturdays in the coming years.

No one was more impressive than the younger brother of Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.

Just call him Baby Gronk because Matayo Uiagalelei , a 6-foot-5, 263-pound sophomore tight end, caught touchdown passes of 27 and 12 yards and also had a sack on defense.

His fourth-quarter touchdown catch on fourth down when he was one-on-one against 6-1 Noah Avinger changed the game. His size and hands were just too much to stop.

Also starring for the Braves was running back Jabari Bates, who rushed for 172 yards and came up with a 10-yard run on fourth down with two minutes left to sink the Friars’ comeback hopes. That set up a 15-yard touchdown run from Michael Hayes to clinch the win.

St. John Bosco hadn’t lost to a team not named Santa Ana Mater Dei since the 2015 season. Coach Troy Thomas, wearing his customary all-white long sleeve dress shirt, tie and black pants, was the last Servite coach to beat the Braves in 2011 and has finally reloaded the Friars’ roster with enough talent to be a real threat since returning as coach in 2018.

And what a thrill it must have been for Thomas in the second quarter when his son, Houston, a junior running back, ignited a Friars drive by breaking off runs of 19 and 16 yards before finally scoring on a three-yard run.


St. John Bosco continued to alternate quarterbacks Pierce Clarkson and Katin Houser every other series, and for the first time, neither could get into an effective rhythm.

The only first-half points for the Braves came from a 43-yard field goal from Andre Meono in the first quarter.

The third quarter saw the game pick up drama. Clarkson and Hauser each directed scoring drives for a 17-7 lead. Uigalelei caught his 27-yard touchdown pass from Houser and Chedon James caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Clarkson.

How the top 25 high school football teams in the Southland fared on Friday night.

March 26, 2021