TORRANCE, Calif. — Friday night’s battle between No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana) and No. 15 St. John Bosco (Bellflower) was like a good old-fashioned heavyweight fight, with the two national powers going toe-to-toe for 48 minutes before the top-ranked Monarchs left with a 31-21 victory before a nearly packed house at El Camino College.
Mater Dei (7-0, 2-0 Trinity League) raced at to an early 14-0 lead on two Amon-Ra St. Brown touchdowns. The first score was a 12-yard pass from USC recruit J.T. Daniels, his 23rd touchdown pass of the season. The second one came on a 51-yard punt return. The five-star St. Brown also returned a punt for a touchdown in last year’s 26-21 regular season win over the Braves.
Bosco (5-2, 1-1 Trinity League) didn’t fold. Sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, making his first varsity start, connected with Josh Delgado for an 85-yard catch and carry that cut the deficit to 14-7.
Daniels and St. Brown brought the Monarchs right back on the next drive, connecting on a long pass to advance the ball deep in Braves’ territory. Greg Harper found the end zone on fourth and inches to make it 21-7.
But, once again, super soph Uiagalelei used his arm to keep St. John Bosco within striking distance. He hooked up with Colby Bowman on a 73-yard pass play to cut the Mater Dei lead to 21-14.
On the very next series, Daniels and St. Brown went to work again, connecting for another score that again gave the Monarchs a two-touchdown lead.
St. Brown finished the night with eight catches for 201 yards.
Bosco was able to close the deficit to 28-21 at halftime on sophomore running back Keith Savage’s TD run, but that was as close as the Braves would get.
Both defenses played extremely well in the second half, with Mater Dei scoring the only points on a field goal.
After the game, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson called it a “hard-fought win.”
Maybe the most surprising stat of the night was the fact that Rollinson’s star QB Daniels rushed for 111 yards and picked up several key first downs with legs.
“I always believed he could do that,” said Rollinson. “He just got this rap that he can’t run, and that’s just not true.”
Daniels gave an indication as to where that “rap” came from—in no uncertain terms.
“I was slow as hell last year,” joked Daniels after the game. “I just had to make a change, that’s about it.”
The 31 points are the lowest total in a game for Mater Dei this season, which came into the contest averaging over 48 per contest. The Monarchs scored 70 in their win over Santa Margarita last week.
“I thought our kids battled well,” St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said. “We didn’t make plays early in the game and we missed some tackles and that hurt us. To hold that offense to three points in the second half was pretty special for our defense.”
The Mater Dei defense was outstanding with seven sacks of Uiagalelei. Solomon Tuliaupupu led the way with 2 1/2 sacks.
“I think D.J. played really well in the first half,” said Negro of his quarterback. “They put some pressure on him in the second half and that’s where he started to have some difficulty. Overall, I was super impressed with the way he played.”
Now the question is — will these two meet again like last season? Mater Dei won the regular season match-up in 2016, and Bosco came back to win the CIF Southern Section championship by beating the Monarchs on its way to the CIF Open Division championship.