BELLFLOWER, CALIF. — The highly-anticipated game between No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) and No. 4 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland) was all but over two minutes into the third quarter.
Quarterback Bryce Young completed a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Kody Epps. The receiving core is deep, but he looks to be Young’s favorite target four games into the season, finishing the game with seven receptions for 101 yards.
Then, Young connected with running back Quincy Craig for an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Craig took a handoff 16 yards.
Young closed out the drive by bolting to the outside and scoring a 37-yard touchdown. This increased the lead to 31-6.
St. Frances couldn’t compete. Mater Dei is a tier above a team that was thought to be in the top tier of teams and came away with the 34-18 win.
Here are some takeaways:
Just a reminder: Bryce Young is a dual-threat quarterback
Coming into the matchup against St. Thomas Frances, quarterback Bryce Young had just 12 carries. He threw for more than 500 yards last week. But he’s the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 class for a reason.
Young scored all four touchdowns for Mater Dei, all four on the ground, the longest of which was the 37-yard dash.
“That’s kind of what we got, especially down in the red zone. I got lanes to run,” Young said.
Some wondered if St. Frances’ immense size on the offensive line could slow him down. Listed at 6-foot on the dot, Young isn’t the largest quarterback in the country.
“Really, the key for us was our O-line,” Young said. “They did an amazing job. That’s a very big, a very athletic line, they did a great job of protecting me.”
The defensive line, led by five-star Chris Braswell, couldn’t stop him. Young releases the ball quickly like Steph Curry on a 3-point shot. It takes him little time to find a target, and when he does, he releases. He escaped sacks and pressure by getting rid of it on a dime.
And he can also run it himself.
Don’t forget it.
A lot of Mater Dei’s game is on-the-fly
With a 14-6 lead, Mater Dei drove to the red zone. Then Young fumbled. If there’s one flaw in his game, it was discovered Saturday, and it’s that he can be loose with the ball at times when scrambling.
On the very next play, linebacker Raesjon Davis forced a fumble and Mater Dei got the ball back. Young ran it in for a touchdown.
On the next drive, Davis tipped a pass to force an incompletion. Then linebacker Kobah Fuamatu forced a fumble. Mater Dei recovered and scored a field goal.
When asked about the game plan, Fuamatu said a lot of what they do comes from modifying what they’re doing during the game.
“When we watch film right here, we adjusted,” Fuamatu said, motioning to the sideline.
Same on offense. Young has permission from coaches to play call and audible, and he’s able to adapt at the line of scrimmage and create.
With a scoreless game, Young scrambled. It looked like he was going to take it himself. Then he shovel-passed it to Cameron Leofa, who went for 22 yards.
“That wasn’t designed, That’s what he does! That’s the magic that I’m talking about,” head coach Bruce Rollinson said “He’s getting flushed out, all heck is breaking loose and how does he have the presence to go OK, there’s Leofa?”
Mater Dei is immensely talented. But maybe the toughest thing to prepare for is the fact that they can adapt so well to the challenges thrown at them. Preparation can only go so far when they’re making it up as they go.
Blake Corum is the St. Frances offense
In the first half, quarterback John Griffith was 2-for-6 with 28 yards. He had one rushing yard.
Osman Savage, a defender used in offensive goal line pacakages.
Running back Blake Corum, a Michigan commit, had 15 carries for 112 yards. He had two receptions for 28 yards. Does that stat look familiar? He had both receptions.
In the first half, Corum had all but four of the St. Frances Academy yards. He was the only thing keeping them breathing.
“He’s just really shifty,” Fuamatu said.
If St. Frances is to compete against the top schools in the country, the offense needs to diversify. Griffith was more active in the second half, going 8-for-10 with 99 yards, but at that point Mater Dei seemed to be OK giving up short plays to limit the long.
“We knew that the running back was going to be a main priority for them,” Davis said. “We were just trying to maintain him, really because we knew their passing wasn’t going to be much.”
On a fourth-and-14 trailing 34-12, St. Frances handed the ball off to Corum. It resulted in a turnover on downs.
And that’s the difference between Mater Dei and St. Frances, summarized by Davis. One team’s game plan assumed the passing game “wasn’t going to be much,” while the other quarterback was the focal point of the defense — and still scored four touchdowns.
In the end, the Trinity League vs. USA Showcase ended in three Trinity League victories.
“There’s a lot of people that criticize the Trinity League because we get a lot of press that we’re the elite league. I think every one of us takes pride in saying, ‘Alright, let’s back up the reputation,'” Rollinson said. “And that’s what we did tonight.”
Mater Dei stats leaders – Passing: Bryce Young: 20-for-33, 247 yards; Rushing – Bryce Young, 105 rushing yards, four touchdowns; Receiving: Kody Epps, seven receptions, 101 yards.
St. Frances Academy stats leaders – Passing: John Griffith: 10-for-16, 127 yards; Rushing: Blake Corum, 181 yards; Receiving: Corum, three receptions, 71 yards