Centennial hopes to limit turnovers in semifinals rematch vs. Mater Dei

Photo: Tre Anthony

Centennial hopes to limit turnovers in semifinals rematch vs. Mater Dei


Centennial hopes to limit turnovers in semifinals rematch vs. Mater Dei


The much-hyped 2018 CIF-SS semifinals matchup between then-undefeated Centennial (Corona, California) and reigning champion Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) ended up to be not much of a game at all.

With four pick-sixes by Mater Dei, three by cornerback Elias Ricks, the Monarchs rolled to a 48-14 victory as part of their second straight National Championship season.

Centennial went back home to reflect on their season and prepare for the upcoming year.

Turns out, their first opponent this season is the last one they faced in 2018.

The Huskies will Visit Mater Dei on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

“Neither of us could find a game so we went ahead and agreed to play,” Centennial head coach Matt Logan said on Aug. 10. “I think it’s a great benchmark for us as an opening game to see where we are.”

RANKINGS: Super 25 Preseason | Regional rankings

Centennial is planning to roll out its two-quarterback system once again until either Carter Freedland or Ala Mikaele can assert himself as the clear No. 1. Logan said that set-up is not due to the lack of talent.

There are two quarterbacks because both are good players who know the system and prioritize winning over putting up gaudy numbers.

“If they’re good enough to play and we can win with them, then they deserve to play because they put all the work in,” Logan said. “They’re both gonna be college football players, they’re good kids, they’re both intelligent, they’re not selfish, which is a huge part of that.”

Last year, of course, the two were not good enough in the semifinals. Wasting offensive drives spells disaster against a team like Mater Dei.

“They don’t need our help. They’re good enough on their own,” Logan said.

Mater Dei’s secondary looks much different than last year but has similar talent. Five-star Ricks is now at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) and four-star cornerback Darion Green-Warren transferred to Narbonne (Harbor City, California). Now, 2021 four-star Jaylin Davies and elite 2022 player Domani Jackson will be patrolling the CB positions.

Jackson got playing time as a freshman and is already one of the fastest players on the team, head coach head coach Bruce Rollinson said.

“We feel, by the time he gets done, he’ll be one of the best press-corners we’ve ever had,” Rollinson said on Aug. 5.

It’ll be a good test for a Centennial team that hopes to pass more than the run-oriented offense did last year.

The two leading rushers graduated. In their stead is senior Nick Floyd and junior Dominique Clay, neither of whom have seen much game action, but Logan expects solid production from them this year behind experienced linemen including Devin Spencer, Robert Rojas and AJ Vaipulu.

Centennial wide receivers Aaron Smith (88) and Gary Bryant (1) (Photo: Louis Lopez)

The wide receiving corps looks to have more strength. Gary Bryant Jr. is ranked as the fourth-best 2020 wide receiver in California, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Senior Aaron Smith and junior Branden Alvarez are unranked on the composite but three-star players by 247Sports, and should have a bigger role this year as they try to gain Div. 1 attention.

The quarterbacks have a better feel for the system to hit them in stride.

“With a year’s experience, I’m expecting these quarterbacks to be able to run the offense a lot better,” Logan said.

It all starts against the reigning champion and one of the top teams in the country.

“I think it will be a good barometer for us to see what level we’re playing at,” Logan said. “We’re gonna get so much better as the season goes on and they’ll be a big part of that because we’re playing such a high-quality team early.”


More USA TODAY High School Sports