Five takeaways from No. 2 St. John Bosco's win over No. 1 Mater Dei

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images

Five takeaways from No. 2 St. John Bosco's win over No. 1 Mater Dei


Five takeaways from No. 2 St. John Bosco's win over No. 1 Mater Dei


After a rain delay postponed the showdown between Super 25 No. 1 Mater Dei and No. 2 St. John Bosco for 24 hours, the Braves proved they’re the team to beat in the Trinity League and in the nation.

St. John Bosco won 41-18.

Here are five takeaways from the game.

All Saturday game stats are according to the Orange County Register. Season stats come from MaxPreps.

Bosco coach Jason Negro knows how to beat Mater Dei

Braves head coach Jason Negro is now 8-4 against Mater Dei.

He has given the Monarchs their only two losses since the start of the 2016 season. Mater Dei’s 18 points Saturday was the fewest they’ve scored in a game since 2015.

“You have to know your opponent and that’s something we do a really good job of,” Negro said to USA TODAY High School Sports on Wednesday. “We dissect our opponent early on in the season. We watch every single one of their games and make sure that we have a really good understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish.”

With Mater Dei’s offseason turnover — losing their quarterback, top wide receiver, one of their best defenders and much of their offensive line — it was tougher for Negro and his coaching staff to do this season.

“Early in the season it was really difficult to try to really get an understanding of what they were trying to accomplish because they hadn’t gelled, they hadn’t come together yet, Negro said. “Now they’re playing at so much higher of a level that we have a little bit of an understanding what they’re doing, but it’s not as great as it’s been in the past.”

It might have been more difficult, but the game plan to attack Mater Dei’s man defense forced the Monarchs to change their scheme in the first half and keep safety help deep.

On defense, the Braves managed to contain quarterback Bryce Young and force him to make throws into tight coverages.

Mater Dei wide receiver McCoy finished with 115 receiving yards and a touchdown, but no other receiver was able to get going.

Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei excelled against a top defense

As if we needed to see more proof that Bosco quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is among the best in his class.

The No. 1 pro quarterback, per 247 Sports, delivered impressive throws throughout the night against one of the best defenses in the nation, including a perfect 25-yard touchdown strike to receiver Jake Bailey.

He led Bosco on three 80-yard drives in the first half and converted four fourth-down conversions.

But one thing that stood out was his ability to make a play with his feet.

Listed as 6-foot-5, 238 pounds, Uiagalelei used his size to his advantage. He managed to escape pressure and create positive plays consistently. The only time he was sacked was on a ball snapped over his head.

Uiagalelei finished the game 15 for 21 with 278 yards and five touchdowns to go with nine carries for 54 yards.

Bosco scored more points than Mater Dei had allowed in its previous six games combined.

Mater Dei couldn’t overcome tight Bosco coverage

Monarchs quarterback Bryce Young came into the game with a 77 percent completion rate.

After starting 7 for 8, he only completed 16 of his next 32 passes as Mater Dei was forced to play catch-up.

A large part of that was due to the lack of space Bosco defenders were providing.

Even on short passes, Young struggled to find receivers with room. His misses seemed magnified, even when it was only by a few inches, as Bosco didn’t give breathing room.

“Those windows were super small, so for him to have to make throws into those spots where guys were right there, and then not only that, but when they caught balls, I thought we did a great job of making tackles,” Negro said to FOX Sports West after the game.

In part due to the defensive scheme and part due to the score getting out of hand, Young wasn’t able to use his feet as much as he was accustomed to.

He had a 40-yard scramble in the first quarter, but Bosco minimized the damage he inflicted on the ground. He was also sacked four times.

TE Mike Martinez should be more involved in the Monarch passing game

Watching Mater Dei wide receiver Bru McCoy battle Bosco cornerback Chris Steele was a treat.

Each beat the other on occasion, including a touchdown throw in which Young escaped pressure and delivered a perfect low throw to McCoy.

But that battle spoke to a larger dilemma of the Monarchs, which might be the only flaw of the team: There’s no clear No. 2 option behind McCoy.

He’s the only Mater Dei player with more than 20 receptions this season.

Kody Epps, who came into the game with eight catches for 157 yards, was the next-best Monarchs wide receiver on Saturday. He had four catches for 55 yards.

Tight end Mike Martinez caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, but that 20-yard score came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.

It might behoove Mater Dei to get Martinez more involved. He appears to be the No. 2 option already, as he had the second-most receptions on the team coming into the game.

Martinez is listed at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. Even with Bosco’s air-tight defense Saturday, Young is an accurate enough passer to drop the ball where Martinez can reach it and others can’t.

RB George Holani opens up Bosco’s offense

Bosco has largely split the carries between George Holani and Keith Savage this season after Holani was the main back last year.

After getting 167 carries in 2017, Holani only has 70 this season. Twenty-four came against JSerra.

But as 2018 gets deeper into conference play and the postseason, Negro might give Holani more carries.

“We knew we were going to have to spread out his carries throughout the year, because when you get into this league, it’s such a by-game gauntlet that’s so difficult and so physically demanding on the body that you’re going to need to have to count on other guys,” Negro said Wednesday.

The Boise State commit had 12 carries against Mater Dei for 118 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run to open the fourth quarter.

He also had a 25-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

Holani is averaging 9.9 yards per carry on the season. With Uiagalelei connecting with receivers and Savage running well, if Holani can continue to lead from the backfield and potentially get more carries, Bosco will be tough to beat.

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