There won’t be any disagreements at the top of every national ranking next week after St. John Bosco tops Mater Dei on Saturday night in one of those rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups. The Braves will now be favored to win the CIF Southern Section Division I title and CIF Open Division state crown.
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There’s still a long way to go and the St. John Bosco football team still hasn’t even wrapped up the Trinity League title, but the way the Braves looked on Saturday in their 41-18 dismantling of Santa Ana Mater Dei in a matchup of teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation it was hard not to compare them to the Monarchs of last year or the Braves of 2013.
Both of those teams won CIF Open Division state titles and were unbeaten with the only difference being that Mater Dei was No. 1 in every final national ranking while Bosco of 2013 wasn’t unanimous.
In this year’s rankings heading into the night, which was played on Saturday at the Santa Ana Bowl after Friday’s game was postponed due to lightning strikes that were seen frequently throughout all of Southern California, Mater Dei was No. 1 in some national polls while Bosco was No. 1 in others. For the Cal-Hi Sports rankings, it was Mater Dei on top with the Braves second, but from the preseason on it was always noted that the Monarchs would stay in that position as the defending champs if they had been able to beat both Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas and IMG Academy of Florida in matchups of nationally ranked squads. They did but now it obviously has been proven that Bosco just has too much depth, too much of a quarterback and too much talent across the board.
Junior D.J. Uigalelei was sharp from the get-go and seemed to set up more passing on later drives by several runs he made early in the game. On the opening drive alone, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder had runs of 17, 8 and 4 yards before throwing a 10-yard scoring pass to senior Jake Bailey.
Uigalelei ended 15 of 22 passing for 279 yards with five touchdowns. He also rushed for 48 yards on 10 carries.
“I’m just super satisfied by how we played as a team,” said Uigalelei, the 2017 State Sophomore of the Year and now probably the leading candidate to be Mr. Football State Player of the Year as a junior. “It’s my first win against them as the quarterback. It was great to see Bosco football the way we know we can play.”
When asked if not playing an opponent previously like Bishop Gorman or IMG may have caused the Braves to perhaps to have saved their best for the Monarchs, Uigalelei agreed.
“Oh yeah, we’ve been waiting for this since game one,” he said. “We executed as a team. We definitely had the mind-set to come out on this night and dominate.”
Mater Dei was matching the Braves almost blow-for-blow in the early going. After Bosco took a 13-3 lead in the first quarter, the Monarchs answered with an 80-yard drive of their own that was capped on a 8-yard TD pass from junior Bryce Young to senior Bru McCoy. That was followed, however, by the Braves hitting right back on a 25-yard TD pass from Uigalelei to Bailey.
Since the Monarchs were going to receive the second half kickoff, there was thought among those in the press box that if Mater Dei could clamp down on Bosco’s momentum late in the second quarter that the game could get close in the second half. That didn’t happen. The Monarchs didn’t score again and the Braves took a 27-10 lead into the break on a 27-yard screen pass from Uigalelei to Boise State-bound running back George Holani.
In the third quarter, Mater Dei’s first series ended in a fourth down incomplete pass with the second one being a three-and-out. The third possession was another fourth down incompletion and then early in the fourth quarter Holani essentially sealed the win by racing 75 yards through a gaping hole that gave Bosco a 34-10 lead.
“We’ll get it dissected and then out of our system,” said Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson. “We’re very young up front and we didn’t make some plays when there were some opportunities. I don’t think the cancellation had an effect. We were offensively just not our best. Maybe part of that was from the cancellation. I don’t know.”
Bailey had one other touchdown catch and capped a memorable night with six receptions for 161 yards. Holani had 12 carries for 123 yards plus the score on the screen pass.
From most of those who saw the Monarchs when they beat IMG Academy, Young didn’t have as good a night. He was sacked four times and was in more obvious passing situations in the second half, but still ended only 18 of 36 for 257 yards. He had a second TD pass of 20 yards to senior tight end Michael Martinez. McCoy wound up with six catches for 98 yards.
St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro also was asked about whether the Braves may have had an advantage about not playing a nationally ranked team earlier.
“We didn’t focus on Mater Dei until it was Mater Dei week,” he said. “We did spend a little time on them during our bye week because we do that for every bye week when we have a team like Mater Dei coming up.”
Having another one of the top teams in the nation in the same league, however, does create hard to describe competition between them.
“There is a lot of respect going both ways and can say how proud we are that we’ve now played them 12 times and have won eight,” Negro said. “When we lost to them twice last year, it made our off-season so easy. I’m a big believer in iron sharpens iron. The better MD gets, that just makes us better.”