MD-Bosco & Centennial Highlights

Marcellus Williams of St. John Bosco (left) celebrates after team’s win last Friday over Mater Dei. At right, Cornell Hatcher of Corona Centennial looks toward crowd after team defeated Vista Murrieta last Thursday. Photos: Mark Tennis.

For perhaps the first time in our history (which goes back 45 plus years), we were able to see the top three ranked teams in the state in the regular season on the same weekend. The top two of them, of course, played each other on Friday night in Bellflower. But on Thursday night it also was possible to see No. 3 Centennial of Corona.

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There’s plenty of reasons why this year’s Mater Dei of Santa Ana football team was proclaimed as potentially the best team to ever put on jerseys not just in California but for the nation.

Most of those reasons are the various national recruiting player rankings that are consistently being updated. Mater Dei players for the Classes of 2024 and 2025 are near the top of those rankings and at just about every position on the field.

On Friday night at Panish Family Stadium in Bellflower, it appeared as if the Monarchs had perhaps been paying too much attention to those types of individual accomplishments. No one can get inside their heads and hearts, but the national No. 1 team coming in sure didn’t display the grit and toughness of their counterparts from St. John Bosco. It was the Braves who looked more like the state and national No. 1 contender in a 28-0 victory that was the most lopsided result since the two state superpowers began their current run of dominance in the state in 2016.

Sophomore Dutch Horsick had three sacks in a game earlier this season and was effective coming off the edge vs Mater Dei. Photo: Mark Tennis.

If one looked at comparative scores between the Monarchs and Braves for their games against Kahuku of Hawaii several weeks ago, the result on Friday should have been an MD rout since it beat Kahuku 55-8 while Bosco dropped a game to the Raiders in Hawaii, 30-23. Others knew better. St. Frances Academy of Baltimore was another common opponent and in those games it was Mater Dei winning 20-7 (with two TDs scored on defense) and Bosco winning by a more comfortable 37-14 margin.

“That game in Hawaii was just an anomaly,” said St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro after Friday’s game. “It was the worst game we’ve played in 21 years. This was one of the best. It was our first shutout against them and I think the last time it was like this was 42-14 in 2015.”

Mater Dei not only was shutout but only advanced into the red zone (inside the 20-yard line) in the game’s final minutes when back-ups were playing. It was the first time the Monarchs have been shut out since 2011.

“I think they just had a great game plan on both sides of the ball,” said first-year Mater Dei head coach Frank McManus. “They made it especially hard for us on offense. We’ve just got to get ready for the next game, get a good flush from our bodies and get ready.”

McManus was referring to a flush of toxins that many players do after every game, but quickly realized that getting “a good flush” also would be good in terms of forgetting about what just happened against the Braves. The Friday the 13th vibe for the Monarchs continued on their way home after the game when their bus broke down on the freeway with a flat tire.

At the beginning of the game, it looked as if both defenses were going to be very tough to score on. Although the Braves picked up four first downs on their first possession, both teams had two consecutive three-and-outs before Mater Dei had 20 rushing yards on three straight carries by senior Nathaniel Frazier. His running back counterpart, returning State Sophomore of the Year Jordon Davison, only carried it once and was sitting on a table for the rest of the game with a wrap around one of his ankles. That drive, though, ended on three straight incomplete passes.

St. John Bosco (7-1) broke through on its fourth possession of the game as its inside blocking was able to create creases for its running backs. UCLA-committed Cameron Jones, who had a lot of success against the Monarchs when the two played last year in the regular season (MD won), had a 37-yard run to the 5-yard line and eventually scored on a 1-yard plunge. He ended the night with a reported 138 yards rushing.

Bosco also scored just before halftime on a 17-yard pass from Caleb Sanchez to Jones, who made a nice grab battling a Monarchs’ defender.

The first post game meet with first-year Mater Dei head coach Frank McManus wasn’t after a win, but he praised the other team and knows a rematch that will likely decide the CIF Southern Section D1 title will be more important. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

The 14-0 halftime lead still seemed unsafe, even to some of the staunchest Braves’ fans, but the momentum did not change in the third quarter. Instead, Mater Dei punted on its opening drive of the half, which then led to a third Bosco touchdown. A 17-yard pass from Sanchez to Chauncey Sylvester picked up one first down. A trick play got the Braves their touchdown on a double pass with Stacy Dobbins catching a backwards throw from Sanchez and then throwing to a wide open Tommy Maher for a 25-yard touchdown.

Mater Dei was stopped on the Bosco 30 with an incomplete pass and then went three-and-out on its next two series. The Braves scored their final touchdown with 2:47 left in the game on a 9-yard run by Sylvester.

With the win, St. John Bosco will back up to the No. 1 spot in the state rankings while Mater Dei will slide back down to No. 2. In the preseason, the Braves were No. 1 in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings since they had won in the last meeting between the two super powers and had stayed there until the loss to Kahuku. All other rankings have had Mater Dei first in the state and nation since the preseason.

The margin of victory may push the Braves back into the national No. 1 conversation. Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas (9-0), which has romped to wins over California teams Long Beach Poly and Corona Centennial, has been second in a lot of national rankings we’ve seen. How much other people value the win over Mater Dei compared to Bosco actually having a loss this season no matter how much of an anomaly it is will be interesting to follow. It only takes one media group or a computer, however, for a school to claim a national title. Bosco’s own 2013 title is proof of that as the consensus of the national rankings that season had Katy High of Katy, Texas at No. 1 while a computer ranking had the Braves.

Both teams will be on the road for their next games. St. John Bosco will be at JSerra of San Juan Capistrano on Friday while Mater Dei will be playing Orange Lutheran on Thursday at Orange Coast College.

Negro, who implored his players to “stay humble” after the big win, also moved closer to winning the 200th game his coaching career. He’ll enter this week at 199-34-0, which includes 2003 to 2009 at Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo and from 2010 to the present at his alma mater. His winning percentage among coaches with 150 wins or more also is among the top five in state history. Concord De La Salle’s retired Bob Ladoucuer had a 93.8 winning percentage (399-24-3) from 1979 to 2012.

Centennial Offense As Good As Ever

There were a lot of turnovers early in the season for the Centennial of Corona football team, which hurt the Huskies in losses to Mater Dei (first game) and later to Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). Those also have been the top two ranked teams in the nation in some polls but Mater Dei will be dropping after Friday’s results.

The Huskies only had one turnover when they played at home on Thursday night against previous state No. 40 Vista Murrieta of Murrieta, which helped them roll to a 62-14 win in which no points were scored in a running clock second half.

In the realm of Centennial football teams we’ve seen going back to the late 1990s, not long after head coach Matt Logan took over the program, this year’s squad is as potent as ever and among the best in school history on offense. The defense is not as stout as 2021 or certainly 2008 when the Huskies were No. 1 in the state for the only time, but who knows how this group is going to develop in the upcoming weeks.

Vista Murrieta head coach Coley Candaele shakes hands with the other coaches from Corona Centennial. Photo: Mark Tennis.

“Yes, and we had none last week,” said Logan when asked about the turnovers. “Everything is good. We clinched a playoff berth tonight. It’s just about trying to get better and compete at a high level.”

Junior quarterback Husan Longstreet, who played last season at Inglewood and led the Sentinels to a 12-1 record, was in line to get his first state record listing in the category of best perfect passing for one game (it takes 11-for-11 to make the list) when he was sitting a 12-of-12 late in the first half. His only incomplete pass, however, prevented it. He finished 14 of 15 for 282 yards and four TDs, according to stats taken by longtime Riverside Press-Enterprise prep sports editor Eric-Paul Johnson, who is someone we were able to stand on the sidelines with for most of the night.

Longstreet doesn’t run it like some of the other Centennial QBs over the years, but he made every throw with touch and accuracy, especially some deep balls, and even the one incompletion (a pass just to the top of the end zone pylon) was a good place to put the ball.

Centennial’s offense, which amassed nearly 500 yards in the first half when the starters were in there, also is known as much for running backs as quarterbacks. Logan has a real good one in senior Cornell Hatcher. He has offers from Ivy League schools, but more may still be coming. He had rushed for more than 1,200 yards coming into the game and had another sizzler: 14 carries for 175 yards and four TDs.

Longstreet’s TD passes were to Seth Zamora (26 yards and 8 yards), Jason Harris Jr. (8 yards) and Dylan Wallner (64 yards). There also was a double pass touchdown when Longstreet threw backwards to Zamora, who then threw a 25-yard TD pass to Noah Westbrook. In general, it is as deep a group of receivers that the Huskies have had but there isn’t one big blue-chipper like a Javon McKinley (2014-15).

Some might wonder why watching a game like this – it was over after the first five minutes – would have value for a team like Vista Murrieta. It was important, however, to see how the Broncos would play against an obviously overmatched opponent and the common sense along their sidelines was still that the program is building in the right direction with Coley Candaele back as head coach. He was in that role in the early 2010s when Vista Murrieta won the CIF Southern Section Inland Division title in 2011 (a game it beat Centennial in and one we attended). Plus, comparing the Broncos in person to similar teams we’ve seen up in Northern California (examples Clovis East, Clovis West, McClymonds) that also would probably get whacked just as bad as they did by Centennial has value as well.

The downer of the evening was an injury to Vista Murrieta senior defensive back Brycen Ruud that delayed the game for 25 minutes in the second quarter. It was unclear on the sidelines what was being checked out, but when loaded onto an ambulance he was moving and his right leg was completely braced. School officials later told Eric-Paul Johnson it was a compound broken leg. We wish all the best to Brycen as he recovers.

Having Lunch With A State Record Holder

In between the Thursday night game at Centennial and the Friday night game at St. John Bosco, a lunch at the Fullerton Elks Club with our longtime friend Phil Marquez was set up. Unbeknownst to us, Phil also had invited another friend of his, David Sepulveda, to the lunch.

Yes, that would be the same David Sepulveda who in 1984 set a state and national record for catching 26 passes in one game. He did it in 1984 for Fullerton High in a game against Buena Park.

“I remember waking up the next morning and someone in our family looked at the paper and said, ‘Hey, look what you did,’” Sepulveda recalled. “It was wild. I couldn’t believe it.”

Sepulveda’s record lasted as the state record for almost 30 years. It wasn’t surpassed until 2011 by Jake Maulhardt of Camarillo (28 catches in a loss to Canyon of Canyon Country). It also was surpassed just two years ago by Hector Ceballos of Los Angeles Franklin (27 catches in a win over Eagle Rock).

It didn’t take long, however, for Sepulveda to start retelling more stories about the team he was on and the players he played with. After showing him the receiving records, he wanted to look at the final state rankings for 1984, which showed Fullerton (13-1) ranked only behind Diamond Bar (14-0) in our final Division III state rankings.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle.

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