June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: QB Elijah Brown and a stifling defense power Mater Dei to another CIF state crown

Mater Dei players celebrate after winning CIF Open Division title as Coach Frank McManus holds the trophy Saturday night at Saddleback College. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

Mater Dei High School’s football team is once again the CIF state champion.  

Quarterback Elijah Brown tossed four touchdown passes and the Monarchs defense thoroughly dominated in a 35-0 victory over Serra of San Mateo Saturday night before a crowd of 8,233 at Saddleback College to capture the Open Division championship. It marked the fourth time the Monarchs have won a CIF state title.

Brown, a Stanford University commit, completed 17 of 22 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns while the Monarchs defense limited the Padres to 58 yards of offense.

“We kept our trust in each teammate, we kept getting first downs and we kept moving the ball,” said Brown, who finished the season with 2,938 yards passing and 39 TD passes. “It’s amazing to be a state champion.”  

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Mater Dei (13-1) improved its record to 4-0 in state championship games. The Monarchs also won state titles in 2017, 2018 and 2021.

Mater Dei recorded its fifth shutout of the season and has outscored opponents 240-35 since losing to St. John Bosco on Oct. 13. Serra (12-1) was playing for the first time in three weeks.

It was the program’s third consecutive Open Division championship game. Serra teams have been outscored 124-7 in the process. The last Northern California team to win the Open Division championship was De La Salle in 2015.

“I owe a great deal of thanks to our principal, our president, our coaching staff and our players,” said Mater Dei Coach Frank McManus. “We got a late start in preparation for this season and it took time for our coaches and kids to understand each other, but I feel like this is mission accomplished. This is what our fans, coaches and players expect each year from our program. Next week, we get back to work and keep the process moving.”

Both teams started off rusty showing effects of a layoff. However, despite being flagged seven times in the first quarter, the Monarchs rebounded and took a 14-0 lead after the first quarter on two Brown TD passes.     

Mater Dei marched 68 yards in eight plays on its initial possession to take an early lead. Brown capped the scoring drive by completing a 16-yard TD pass to tight end Mark Bowman, giving the Monarchs a 7-0 lead at the 4:56 mark of the opening quarter.

Jayden Green returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the Monarchs 31 yard line, but the Padres failed to capitalize as Brooks Trimmer was tackled for a loss on a fake field goal attempt. Serra never advanced into the red zone in the game.

“We knew we were going to beat them; we saw the look in their eyes in warmups and they looked scared,” said Monarchs defensive lineman Jesus Venegas, who applied heavy pressure on Serra quarterback Maeliuaki Smith throughout the game.  

Late in the quarter, Mater Dei was on the move again. Brown tossed a 74-yard TD pass to Marcus Harris to up the Monarchs lead to 14-0 with 1:21 to play in the first quarter. It was the longest pass play for a touchdown for Mater Dei this season.

“I think when Marcus Harris had that long touchdown catch that’s when we took the momentum and turned the tide of the game,” said wide receiver Marcus Brown, who combined with Harris to catch six passes for 197 yards and a touchdown.     

Late in the first half, following a blocked Serra punt by Monarchs linebacker Shaun Scott, Mater Dei moved the ball 43 yards in four plays to take a 21-0 lead. Brown capped the drive by firing his third TD pass of the game, a 12 yarder to Jonah Smith and the Monarchs took a commanding halftime lead.

“We were dialed in,” said Scott. “We studied film on them for two weeks and kept in our zones and it simply feels amazing to be a state champion.”

The Mater Dei defense, led by Nasir Wyatt, Tomu Topui, Tanner Williams, Scott, Venegas and Semi Taulanga, dominated the trenches from the start. The Monarchs limited the Padres to 49 yards on 27 plays in the first half and allowed Serra to convert only two of 11 third and fourth downs.

“We communicated and made adjustments to some formations we never saw before,” said Taulanga.

“From the start their offensive line couldn’t handle our defensive line,” Nasir added. “We were locked in and executed our game plan that coach (Eric Johnson) set for us.”

Jordon Davison added an 8-yard TD run on Mater Dei’s first possession of the second half and Brown connected on a 31-yard TD to Jack Ressler on the first play of the fourth quarter to complete the Monarchs scoring.

The Monarchs outgained the Padres 386-58 in the game. The only drawback for Mater Dei’s performance  was that the Monarchs were penalized 16 times for 150 yards.

Despite the loss, Serra coach Patrick Walsh had positive feedback for the season.

“This is the best team I’ve ever coached,” said Walsh. “We’ve been to three consecutive state championships and we’ve won our very difficult league three straight years. I told our kids there is no shame in losing this game.” 

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone