It was touted as the game of the year, just as it has been each of the past few seasons, and rightfully so.
Top-ranked Santa Ana Mater Dei held off second-in-line Bellflower St. John Bosco, 31-21, on Friday night at El Camino College in a game that could decide the Trinity League title.
The contest lived up to the hype as fans packed the stands, alumni patrolled the sidelines and the Monarchs snuffed out the Braves’ final threat, blocking a field goal attempt with 1:23 left.
St. John Bosco entered the night with a bit of a quarterback controversy. Longtime starter Re-al Mitchell and up-and-coming sophomore D.J. Uiagalelei switched off series in the previous week’s win over Orange Lutheran, and there was some speculation that Uiagalelei might have earned the starting nod.
Mitchell addressed the rumors, tweeting Tuesday “to correct the narrative, I have an undisclosed injury.”
Uiagalelei did start Friday’s game, but it looked as if the Braves might need Mitchell as Bosco fell behind 14-0 after the first quarter.
Monarchs quarterback J.T. Daniels put Mater Dei on the board with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Amon-ra St. Brown at the 2:17 mark of the quarter before St. Brown returned a punt 52 yards for a score with 48 seconds left in the period.
Uiagalelei shook off his slow start, hitting Josh Delgado on a slant across the middle on third and 15 for an 85-yard score on the first play of the second quarter.
Daniels and St. Brown answered with their own big plays. The USC-bound quarterback hit St. Brown on a screen and he took it 77 yards down the right sideline to set up his third score, a 15-yarder.
Bosco’s Keith Savage capped the wild half with a 34-yard touchdown run with 1:11 to go, and Mater Dei took a 28-21 lead into the break.
The second half proved to be a defensive battle, as the only score was a 23-yard field goal by Mater Dei’s Nicholas Lopez in the third quarter.
Mater Dei beat St. John Bosco 26-21 last year in league play but lost to the Braves, 42-28, in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game.