In 26 years as Mater Dei’s head coach, Bruce Rollinson had never won back-to-back championships.
He’s been part of the faculty for 40 years. It’s his alma mater.
“As much as we’re in the gym, working, he’s standing there motivating us, and I know he’d be working too if he could,” five-star Bru McCoy told Fox Sports West. “I’d do anything, I’d die on this field for that man.”
After falling 41-18 to St. John Bosco just six weeks ago to give the Monarchs their second loss of the season — the first coming on a forfeit for playing an ineligible player — the team would have to fight all the harder for a repeat.
“I’ve had a pit in my stomach since that (October) game,” McCoy said. “It irked me. All I thought about was my change to get back at them.”
On Friday, the final game of Rollinson’s 27th season as head coach, Super 25 No. 2 Mater Dei took down No. 1 St. John Bosco 17-13.
The Monarchs rule again.
They won by fixing what didn’t work last game — namely, limiting the amount of time the Braves even touched the ball.
The Monarchs decided the best way to stop Bosco from scoring was to stop them from getting possession.
Mater Dei didn’t score until there was about a minute left in the first half, but they didn’t allow Bosco to get far in front by dominating the play clock. The Monarchs had possession for 18:54 of the 24 total minutes.
In all, they had the ball for 31:34 while the Braves only had it for 16:26.
“That (October) game wasn’t us, we kind of came out lackadaisical,” five-star CB Elias Ricks told Fox Sports West. “We didn’t want it as bad as we wanted this one.”
Mater Dei renovated its offense, going to 6-foot-6 Mike Martinez earlier and more often than the team did the previous matchup against Bosco.
In October, the Braves defense closed all the windows five-star quarterback Bryce Young tried to hit.
This time, he opened his own windows.
Young threw the ball to wear only Martinez could reach it, including one pass that was even too high for him. On another, the ball struck the tight end straight in the helmet. He held on.
Martinez, who had five receptions for 86 yards in the first half, would have had even more yards if a holding penalty didn’t prevent a catch-and-run 46-yard completion near the end of the first half.
That penalty and a missed field goal prevented Mater Dei from taking an early lead, but they went into halftime tied in part thanks to more heroics from five-star wide receiver Bru McCoy.
Trailing by a touchdown with about 1:30 left in the first half, McCoy worked his way around dominant Bosco cornerback Chris Steele to snag a 27-yard reception and set up a short touchdown from running back Shakobe Harper.
McCoy scored a touchdown of his own as well.
The Monarchs completed 17 first downs and forced quick possessions from Bosco, but the Braves wouldn’t let them break away.
Even without the ball, Bosco proved how dangerous it is.
As the Monarchs attempted to take a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, four-star cornerback Chris Steele blocked a field goal attempt. Fellow four-star corner Trent McDuffie returned it to the house.
It was suddenly a one-point game.
But Mater Dei’s defense was holding off one of the top offenses in the country.
In the October matchup, Bosco took advantage of man coverage and hit targets deep over the middle. Mater Dei didn’t allow five-star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to do so tonight, limiting the damage he inflicted and intercepting him twice.
One of them came immediately after the McDuffie touchdown return, when Ricks dove to pick off the ball and snag his ninth interception of the season.
The Monarchs also prevented Uiagalelei from using his legs, one of the biggest strengths despite playing pro-style. As Uiagalelei attempted to get his team down field with 30 seconds remaining, Mater Dei tackled him at the line of scrimmage and all but stopped the comeback attempt as the clock ticked.
“Throughout the playoffs, it was hard to go game-by-game, take each team on knowing that they (Bosco) were at the end. I was so happy that we got the chance to play them,” McCoy said.
“I knew if we came out here, we was going to win. And I knew that in my heart in my soul.”