Miscues proved costly for the state’s No. 3 ranked team as Santa Ana Mater Dei loses Trinity League showdown to Bellflower St. John Bosco, the state’s top-ranked club. Three big fumble recoveries by Bosco’s defense proves to be the difference.
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After losing in the previous two CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division title games, Mater Dei of Santa Ana hopes to take it one step further this season and win the section’s most coveted crown and appear in its first-ever post-season bowl game.
That goal remains intact, but the road to the Monarchs’ first outright section title since 1998 just got a bit harder after three costly turnovers proved to be too much to overcome in a 28-25 loss to state No. 1 St. John Bosco in a Trinity League opener for both teams.
Mater Dei entered the game unbeaten and ranked No. 3 in the state with a 5-0 mark after squeaking by state-ranked Westlake of Westlake Village in its final non-league game, and a win Friday would have accomplished plenty of things for Bruce Rollinson’s program. First and foremost, starting off 1-0 in league play is a huge step in the race for the Trinity League crown. After all, it’s a league in which all six of its teams entered league play ranked in the State 25. Just making the playoffs will be an accomplishment this season. Secondly, the Monarchs would exact some revenge for losing twice to St. John Bosco (5-1) last season, including a 34-7 setback in the Pac-Five title game.
Despite its mistakes that led to a 21-10 deficit early in the third quarter, Mater Dei (5-1) was in position to pull out its first victory over the Braves since 2010 when Mater Dei’s defense held on downs and took over from its own 23-yard line with 2:23 remaining and trailing 28-25. Mater Dei quickly got the ball past midfield, then disaster struck when senior QB Jack Lowary (22 of 30, 342 yards) faced some pressure during his drop and lost the ball on the move. The fumble was recovered by Bosco sophomore defensive end Jacob Callier and the Josh Rosen-led Braves’ offense was able to get a key first down and run out the clock.
Rosen, a UCLA recruit who made some key plays with his legs, finished 14-of-23 passing for 196 yards. His one touchdown pass to senior WR Kaylin Franklin made the score 14-10 in favor of Bosco with 4:35 remaining in the second quarter. Rosen also scored the game’s first touchdown on a two-yard QB keeper with 10:02 showing in the second quarter that made the score 7-3.
Trailing by 11 points in the third period (21-10), Mater Dei was able to climb back in the game on a 11-yard run to pay dirt by senior RB Noah Delgadillo and a subsequent two-point conversion catch by TE Kyle Penniston. Delgadillo’s scoring play came with 3:17 remaining in the third period, but with 11:35 showing in the fourth quarter a back-breaking Mater Dei turnover turned out to account for Bosco’s final score and the Monarchs simply couldn’t overcome it.
After holding Bosco’s offense while trailing 21-18, Mater Dei was in position to take the lead only to see Lowary lose a fumble that was scooped up by Bosco CB Traveon Beck and returned untouched 69 yards for a touchdown. Mater Dei had four fumbles, and Lowary’s three ended up being turnovers. The first half turnover occurred with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter and Bosco leading 14-10. Bosco LB Leti Epenesa forced a fumble that fellow ‘backer Nas Anesi recovered.
Bosco capitalized on Anesi’s recovery as it scored on a 6-play, 65-yard drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by junior Sean McGrew, who finished with 25 carries for 124 yards rushing. Mater Dei’s leading rusher was junior Brandon LaMarche with 24 yards.
Mater Dei outgained St. John Bosco in total yards, 382-341, and held the first down advantage, 21-14. The Monarchs simply couldn’t overcome the turnovers.
“Those turnovers brought our energy up,” Anesi said. “That’s when we were losing focus. Those turnovers were a big key in the game. We knew it was going to be a fight. We expected a good game from Mater Dei.”
Mater Dei was able to get within striking distance 28-25 with 4:43 remaining when a Bosco mistake, a blocked punt by the Monarchs’ Jed Smith, led to a recovery and short jaunt into the end zone by sophomore special teamer Jalen Cole.
There was spectacular play on both sides, and some shaky execution, it just so happened Bosco made fewer big mistakes to move to 1-0 in the Trinity League. Every week is a brutal matchup in the state’s toughest league, so throwing out the fact the game was a state No. 1 vs. No. 3 showdown, Bosco’s victory was indeed important in the race for the league title and a somewhat easier path for a return trip to the section title game. If Mater Dei can’t rebound to win or tie for the league crown, it can still make another deep playoff run, it’s just the road is much harder with a likely state-ranked opponent by the quarterfinals and perhaps even in the opening round.
Bosco has state-ranked and 6-0 JSerra of San Juan Capistrano up next. Mater Dei will look to rebound against 4-2 Servite of Anaheim, which pulled out a 28-25 victory over Orange Lutheran on Friday night.