Bruce Rollinson is in his 28th season as varsity football coach at Santa Ana Mater Dei, and don't expect him to retire any time soon based on the amount of talent on the Monarchs' freshman team.
In an extraordinary freshman game matching unbeaten Mater Dei and unbeaten St. John Bosco on Thursday afternoon, the Monarchs prevailed, 28-21, but it will be long remembered for living up to the hype of two teams with lots of future individual talent.
Most impressive of all was the Mater Dei offensive line. Never, ever have I seen a group of freshmen linemen quite like the Monarchs. Any quarterback or running back is going to enjoy being protected by this group through 2019.
I don't know who's best among them, but as a group they're the best freshman unit around. There's 6-foot-2, 270-pound Jeminal Leuta-Ulu; 6-3, 290-pound Kamuta Levvasa; 6-1, 290-pound center Tautai Marks; 5-11, 270-pound Martin Salazar, and 6-3, 260-pound Myles Murao.
Salazar came through with a stuff on defense in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line to save the game. Murao kept putting pressure on 6-4, 230-pound St. John Bosco quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.
Many of these players know each other from youth football. Some are related because of their Samoan roots.
Among the skill-position players, Mater Dei running JuJuan Collins was the fastest player on the field. He had a 62-yard touchdown run to break a 21-21 tie. He also had an eight-yard TD run.
Then there was Mater Dei receiver-cornerback Elias Ricks, who caught a 22-yard TD pass and was magificent playing cornerback. Christopher Street also had a TD. Mater Dei was able to win despite four interceptions by St. John Bosco.
It's going to be hard for the Mater Dei and St. John Bosco varsity teams to top the performance of the freshman teams on Thursday, but you can count on hearing about these players in the coming years.
St. John Bosco has a defensive back, Keith Savage, who played the first month of the season as a 13-year-old and turned 14 on Oct. 2. Wait until he gets his growth spurt.
It was a game to remember.
"We're national champs," a Mater Dei assistant coach shouted.