Mater Dei holds off Corona Centennial, will face Servite for title

Mater Dei running back Raleek Brown runs down the sideline for a touchdown.
Mater Dei running back Raleek Brown, shown on a touchdown run earlier this season, had 164 yards rushing in the Monarchs’ victory Friday night over Corona Centennial.
(Jerome Miron / For The Times)
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Bruce Rollinson and Matt Logan have been facing off for so long in high school football games that the pregame conversations have changed from Xs and O’s to discussion on grandchildren.

They’re no longer spring chickens but continue to produce top teams at Santa Ana Mater Dei and Corona Centennial, respectively. Either team can be the most imposing roadblock to winning a championship, so Friday night’s Southern Section Division 1 semifinal before a sold-out stadium in Corona had the feel of an epic encounter.

Mater Dei needed two big defensive plays from standout linebacker David Bailey, plus 164 yards rushing in 29 carries from Raleek Brown to escape with a 21-16 victory.


“David Bailey took it over in the second half and did what a great player should do,” Rollinson said.

Bailey contributed a forced fumble and added a sack in the second half to send the top-seeded Monarchs (10-0) into next Friday’s Division 1 championship game at Long Beach Veterans Stadium against Anaheim Servite, which upset Bellflower St. John Bosco 40-21.

Brown, largely overshadowed by Mater Dei’s passing attack, finally got the opportunity to carry the ball again and again. “I was waiting all year,” he said. “I can get 20 carries a game.”

Centennial’s athleticism in the secondary helped produce the most inconsistent game of the season for Mater Dei quarterback Elijah Brown, who was nine of 17 passing for 139 yards and one touchdown.

The third quarter saw Mater Dei come through with a goal-line stand that stopped Centennial (11-1) at the one-yard line. Bailey later stripped the ball from quarterback Israel Carter, with Mater Dei recovering. Then came a 61-yard reception by Samari Staten, followed by a 12-yard touchdown run from Raleek Brown for a 21-9 Mater Dei lead.


Centennial finally got untracked, with Carson Conklin passing 41 yards to Demarieon Young and a five-yard touchdown run by Jayson Cortes at the end of the third quarter.

Mater Dei had some rough moments in the first half but still came away with a 14-9 halftime lead after Cameron Sidney deflected a fourth-down pass in the end zone with 14 seconds left in the second quarter.

“I can’t say enough about the defense,” Rollinson said. “They got stop after stop. We did what we had to do to take it to the final.”

The Monarchs had fallen behind 9-7 on a safety following a bad snap while punting, then regained the lead when Raleek Brown ran 16 yards for a touchdown, hurdling a Centennial defender at the five-yard line.

Nathan Jimenez gave the Huskies a first-half boost. He had a kickoff return to the Mater Dei 37, setting up his 13-yard touchdown reception from Conklin and also contributed a 26-yard run on a reverse. The Monarchs kept chipping away at Centennial, looking for any weaknesses in a defense that allows less than 10 points a game. By halftime, Raleek Brown had rushed for 98 yards.

Centennial hasn’t put up much of a fight in losing semifinal appearances in 2017, 2018 and 2019, leading to questions whether the two private schools had separated themselves so much that not even a Logan-coached public school team was capable of offering real competition.

In fact, the Huskies did just that but Mater Dei’s defense kept pushing back. Afterward, Logan was on the phone because his pregnant daughter was at the hospital giving birth to his second granddaughter.