1. Mater Dei
Location: Santa Ana, Calif.
2016 record: 13-1
2016 Super 25 Final ranking: No. 9
Start with 10 returning offensive starters, including perhaps the best pitch-catch combo in the country with junior J.T. Daniels (4,849 yards, 67 TDs passing) throwing to senior WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (1,229 yards, 21 TDs receiving), considered the top 2018 receiver. Daniels, who recently committed to Southern Cal, will also look for senior WR C.J. Parks (666 yards and nine TD catches), a UCLA commit and senior WR Nikko Remigio (758 yards, seven TDs receiving), a Cal commit. Daniels should have time to throw behind an offensive line that includes junior TE Michael Martinez and senior Division I recruits Tommy Brown, Kekaniokoa Gonzalez, Mason Kolinchak and Chris Murray. The top running back is junior Shakobe Harper (660 yards and 14 TDs rushing). Another key offensive player is junior WR Bru McCoy (451 all-purpose yards).
The defense is led by elite senior LBs Solomon Tuliaupupu and LB Jack Genova and DE Andrew Faoliu, along with junior LB Mase Funa. The Monarchs’ schedule includes Super 25 champion Bishop Gorman, defending state Open Division champion St. John Bosco, New Jersey state semifinalist Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) and St. Mary’s (Stockton), which was the state Division IAA runner-up.
Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said he probably has to go back to the 90s when he had a team with this much Bowl Subdivision talent.
“Recently, this is probably the most high-profile number of D-1 offered guys I’ve had, but that’s kind of commonplace in the league (Trinity League) we’re in,” Rollinson said. “The whole key for us is our average guys have to get good and the good players have to get great.”
Rollinson said he’s more concerned about his defense, which only returns three or four starters.
“Offensively, all I do is talk to them about how they have to improve every day,” he said. “But defensively, we have some rookies who are talented players. You can’t substitute for experience, so they’ll have to play to see what it is like.”
The Monarchs’ season ended with a playoff loss to St. John Bosco (Bellflower), a team Mater Dei beat during the regular season.
“I don’t think there’s a week or a day that goes by that I don’t remind them of that,” Rollinson said. “We’re going to play Bosco in the regular season and there’s probably a strong likelihood we will play them in our section finals or semifinals. You have to prepare for that and you have to stay healthy.”
8/25 at Bishop Amat (La Puente)
9/1 vs. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
9/8 vs. La Mirada
9/16 at Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.)
9/23 at St. Mary’s (Stockton)
10/6 at Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita)
10/13 at St. John Bosco (Bellflower) at Torrance
10/20 vs. JSerra (San Juan Capistrano)
10/27 vs. Lutheran (Orange)
11/3 vs. Servite (Anaheim)