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Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco: High school football’s big week arrives

Jack Ressler, left, and Isaiah Lopez hug after Mater Dei beat St John Bosco during the pandemic-delayed spring season.
Jack Ressler, left, and Isaiah Lopez hug after Mater Dei’s 34-17 win over St John Bosco during the pandemic-delayed spring season.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

It’s Santa Ana Mater Dei vs. Bellflower St. John Bosco week.

The tailgating is going to be scrumptious. The hype is going to be off the charts. The stadium is going to be packed.

Welcome to Round 1 — the battle of the unbeatens. The Trinity League showdown Friday at St. John Bosco probably will decide the No. 1 seed for the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs (sorry Servite fans). It will be televised by Bally Sports. Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday on GoFan.co.

“We’re totally pumped,” St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said. “Our entire community is excited.”

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Mater Dei is 3-0 and ranked No. 1 by The Times. St. John Bosco is 5-0 and ranked No. 2. And then there’s this:

“St. John Bosco is best team in the country,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said.

“Mater Dei is the best team in the country,” Negro said.

It looks as if neither coach is going to allow bulletin-board material to fire up the other team.

“We’re going to be well prepared,” Rollinson said. “We have tremendous respect for their program. I’m concerned we’ve had three games, they’ve had five.”

But Mater Dei has used those weeks without games to prepare. “We’ve taken advantage of the weeks we did not play to utilize some prep time for the Braves,” Rollinson said.

The two schools have played for the Division 1 championship every year since 2016.If you want a sneak preview of future stars, the Mater Dei-St. John Bosco freshman game will be played at 4 p.m. Thursday at St. John Bosco.

Negro explained what’s different about this season’s game.

“You can’t hide from the fact it means a little bit more,” he said. “You’re playing somebody that has national accolades. As much as you try to do the one-game-at-a-time approach, it’s almost impossible knowing they are looming in the future.

“But we’ve done it so many times now it’s become part of our culture. When you get into the week of the game, the practices are much better, kids are more focused, you can log on and watch their Hudl minutes starting to increase because they watch film longer. It’s all good. They’re going to bring out the best in us and we’re going to bring out the best in them, and that’s what you hope for in youth sports.”

It’s the opening week of Trinity League play. Five of the six teams are in The Times’ top 25, including No. 3 Servite (4-0), No. 7 Santa Margarita (4-1) and No. 8 Orange Lutheran (5-0). Another must-see game this week has Servite playing Orange Lutheran on Thursday night at Orange Coast College.

Friday night marks the most exciting night so far of the high school football season. There are so many significant matchups that will influence playoff seedings and perhaps determine league titles.

In the City Section, Wilmington Banning is playing at San Pedro for the Marine League championship. Palisades is playing at Venice to decide the Western League title. Hawkins is at Crenshaw in a big Coliseum League matchup.

In the Southern Section, there are a series of games that could determine league titles: Etiwanda at La Verne Damien, Chino Hills Ayala vs. Glendora at Citrus College, Compton Dominguez at Downey Warren, Corona del Mar vs. Los Alamitos at Westminster. Then there’s the terrific nonleague game featuring Chatsworth Sierra Canyon at Mission Viejo and Santa Barbara Bishop Diego playing Ventura St. Bonaventure at Ventura College.

You can either stay home and watch several games on Prep Zone or go to a game and still watch on your phone. Whatever choice you make, it should be the best night yet of the high school football season.


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