Column: It’s important St. John Bosco and Mater Dei find local competition in football

St. John Bosco linebacker Andrew Simpson sacks Sierra Canyon quarterback Daniel Duran during a game
St. John Bosco linebacker Andrew Simpson sacks Sierra Canyon quarterback Daniel Duran during a game last spring.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Coaches Jason Negro at St. John Bosco and Bruce Rollinson at Santa Ana Mater Dei don’t really care what other high school football programs are doing, but they should. It’s much better to have strong competition than to become like Northern California, where Concord De La Salle has won 28 consecutive sectional championships.

If Southern California becomes anything close to that, anarchy would ensue, with public schools rising up and demanding change and other private schools wondering if they should raise the white flag of surrender.

St. John Bosco and Mater Dei have played in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game every season since 2016 and will be favored again in 2021.


Their rivalry and the quality of the talent on display make their games intriguing and exciting, but if they separate themselves so much that no one wants to play them, problems will develop. It’s already becoming difficult for both teams to find nonleague games in Southern California, forcing them to play teams from Florida and Texas.

The sights, sounds and scene at Santa Ana Stadium on Saturday night during the Trinity League clash between St. John Bosco and Mater Dei.

April 19, 2021

On a positive note, there are signs opponents haven’t given up hope of competing with the Braves and Monarchs. Servite is gearing up to have one of its best teams, thanks to the prolific passing combination of quarterback Noah Fifita and receiver Tetairoa McMillan.

Sierra Canyon is rising fast thanks to a group of improving linemen. Santa Margarita won the Edison passing tournament, which doesn’t mean much once pads are put on but does say the Eagles have good skill-position players.

Of course, those are all private schools. Where are the public schools?

There’s always Corona Centennial and coach Matt Logan, who fears no one and will have his team face Mater Dei to open the 2021 season. Norco has ambitions because of a young team that upset Centennial last spring. Long Beach Poly is slowly building up its talent again. Mission Viejo and San Clemente continue to produce competitive teams. Los Alamitos is making progress under quarterback Malachi Nelson.

The looming question is what effect a new playoff format will have this fall, when teams will be placed in divisions based on what they do during the regular season rather than past performance. Southern Section officials are excited to form brackets based on current rankings.


In basketball, schools have come to embrace the chance to be selected for the Open Division, making them one of the best eight teams in Southern California. Will football schools start to feel the same even though St. John Bosco and Mater Dei remain roadblocks to winning a championship? Or will schools want to end up in Division 2 with the chance to play for a championship?

From my perspective, competition is the key. There’s no way anyone in Southern California should want things to resemble Northern California, where the same team is basically assured of winning a title every season. Well, maybe anyone is the wrong word. St. John Bosco and Mater Dei sure don’t mind winning titles every season.