In the latest state No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the CIF Southern Section’s Major Division title game, No. 2 St. John Bosco wears down top-ranked Mater Dei of Santa Ana, 42-28, to win the section D1 title. It will be an easy call to pit current state No. 2 St. John Bosco vs. perennial NorCal participant and No. 5 De La Salle of Concord in the CIF Open Division state bowl game on December 17. It will be the second meeting in four years between the two programs in the CIF’s biggest bowl game
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There is an old adage in high school sports that it’s never easy to defeat a good team twice in the same season. That especially rings true for two league rivals playing in a big post-season game. That proved to be the storyline for a good St. John Bosco of Bellflower team, which had revenge on its mind taking on unbeaten Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the CIF Southern Section D1 title game. After doing a good defensive job on Mater Dei’s vaunted offense in its Trinity League showdown only to give up a lead, Bosco dominated in the trenches and again slowed down the Monarchs and record-setting quarterback J.T. Daniels to record a 42-28 win before 13,466 fans at Angels Stadium.
This game had plenty of sequel storylines. For St. John Bosco, it won its second major division CIF Southern Section crown in four years, as it captured the Pac-Five championship 34-7 over Mater Dei in 2013. That season, the Braves not only won the school’s first Pac-Five title (as D1 was called from 2006 to 2015), they went on to play statewide stalwart De La Salle of Concord in the CIF Open Divison bowl game and earned State Team of the Year honors with a historic 20-14 victory. With their win Saturday night, in all likelihood the Braves will once again play De La Salle in the open division bowl game December 17 at Sacramento State.
Just as in the October Trinity League showdown that Mater Dei (13-1) won 26-21, St. John Bosco (12-2) scored 21 first-half points and took a lead versus its league rival.
Mater Dei actually scored first on the opening drive on a one-yard plunge by sophomore back Shakobe Harper (nine carries, 71 yards). After the Monarchs took a 7-0 lead, the Braves scored 21 consecutive points to take control of the game. Aided by a key personal foul that kept its first drive alive, St. John Bosco got on the board on a short plunge by junior running back Demetrius Flowers with 3:16 remaining in the first quarter. In the second quarter, St. John Bosco’s offensive line, led by Ohio-State bound Wyatt Davis, started to take control of the game.
Flowers (20 carries, 120 yards, two touchdowns) converted on a key fourth down running behind Wyatt (who switched over from left tackle) and moments later the Braves scored on a 24-yard option pitch from junior quarterback Re-al Mitchell to running back Terrance Beasley (22 carries, 145 yards, 1 touchdown) up the left sideline to take a 14-7 lead with 7:39 remaining in the second quarter. After Bosco’s defense made the Monarchs’ offense punt on consecutive possessions, the Braves marched downfield, capping a 10-play, 90-yard drive on a 13-yard scamper by Mitchell, who is a sub 10.7 100-meter sprinter, off a zone-read option keeper to give his team a 21-7 lead.
“Our o-line helped a lot and we didn’t try to force too many passes,” Flowers said. “We trusted the o-line and we ran right at them. I’m speechless right now. But we know we want to work the next two weeks.”
St. John Bosco statistically dominated on the ground in the first half (179-41, 15:37-8:23 time of possession) and would have dominated on the scoreboard, too, it not for a late touchdown pass from Daniels, only a sophomore, to Amon-Ra St. Brown (six receptions, 140 yards) on a 49-yard strike with 1:14 remaining before halftime to make the score 21-14.
Bosco got the ball to begin the second half and Flowers exposed a huge hole up the middle to score on a 66-yard run two minutes in to make the score 28-14. Mater Dei needed a big play or turnover to get back in the game at that point, and that’s when junior Nathan Logoleo jumped in front of a Mitchell pass intended for Beasley with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter.
Disaster struck for Mater Dei on its very first offensive snap after the interception, however, as Daniels was promptly picked off by senior defensive back Tyrel Thomas, who returned it 40 yards for a touchdown on a play in which the Monarchs were flagged for having an ineligible receiver downfield. The score was 35-14 at that point and there wasn’t any signs to indicate Mater Dei was going to pull out a comeback victory this time around.
St. John Bosco, which saw its 23-game Trinity League winning streak snapped in the earlier loss to Mater Dei, out gained Mater Dei 376-75 on the ground. Mitchell was 9-of-16 passing for 87 yards with an interception and rushed 20 times for 111 yards and two scores, including a 12-yard keeper to round out Bosco’s scoring with 3:05 remaining. Daniels, who likely will be a Mr. Football finalist as a 10th-grader, finished 21-of-35 for 289 yards and two touchdowns and three interceptions. Daniels finished his season with Orange County records of 4,849 yards and 67 touchdowns. Daniels threw as many interceptions in the title game, however, as he did in the other 13 games combined and passed for only 424 yards in the two games versus the Braves.
“Yes, going in it was our game plan to run,” said Davis, who alternated between both guard positions. “The last game we also were struggling with some injuries. We knew if our offensive line executed and knew if we made the right blocks, that we’d make the right plays.”
St. John Bosco has competed in the CIFSS D1/Pac-5 championship game for four consecutive seasons. For Mater Dei, it was its third loss in a CIFSS major division title game in five years. The loss also means Mater Dei hasn’t won an outright Southern Section title since 1998. In 1999, Mater Dei tied Long Beach Poly in the D1 title game.
“My heart goes out to the seniors, but we’ll be back,” said Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson. “A catch here, a bounce there and it was one of those nights where things didn’t go our way. My hat goes off to St. John Bosco, they had an excellent game plan.”
De La Salle has won six of the last seven CIF Open Division bowl games. St. John Bosco defeated the Spartans in that epic 2013 contest and even though De La Salle doesn’t have one of its vintage teams this season, St. John Bosco isn’t as good as it was four years ago, either. Still, Negro’s team made the necessary adjustments to knock off the state’s No. 1 team and avenge one of its two losses. Bosco’s other loss was to national No. 1 Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which extended its own winning streak to 54 games and captured its eighth consecutive Nevada state crown on Saturday night.
“We just executed really well,” Negro said. “We played a tough schedule this year and tonight did a great job running the ball. Trying to hold down Daniels was tough. He’s young, so we thought we’d try some different coverages and thought there might be some different results.
Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores