It was tighter than perhaps it needed to be, but in the end the Huskies did what they had to.
Corona Centennial, the No. 7 team in the USA TODAY High School Sports Super 25, held off a fierce fight back by rival Mater Dei in a 42-36 victory that sets up an eagerly awaited Pac-5 sectional championship game against fellow Southern California rival St. John Bosco, the nation’s No. 3 team. The game will be played at the Angels’ Anaheim Stadium next Friday.
That the game finished within a touchdown was a remarkable feat on Mater Dei’s part. The Monarchs trailed by 42-16 late in the third quarter before launching three straight rapid strike offensive drives. The third was thwarted short of the end zone, but Mater Dei forced a Centennial three-and-out and returned the punt to have the ball in excellent position … then promptly score to pull within the final margin. Yet Mater Dei was left with no timeouts, and the final onside kick attempt went straight to the hands of Corona running back JJ Taylor, who locked down possession for Centennial to seal the victory.
For his part, Taylor — and Arizona commit — had another strong performance for Centennial. He scored a key touchdown to pad the Huskies’ lead to 35-16, was the dominant force on Centennial’s attempt to run down the clock on its penultimate drive and then easily controlled the final kick off to wrap up the win.
Amidst a host of clutch plays on both sides, the highlight of the night was turned in by Centennial receiver Camren Jackson, who scored a 32-yard touchdown on a wild one-handed catch as he slid in to the right side of the end zone. The grab gave the Huskies a 14-10 lead and set the stage for what was to come, both in the remainder of the game and a week in the future.