No. 1 Mater Dei’s high-flying passing attack took a back seat to its ground game against No. 5 Servite on Friday night, with the Monarchs relying on their running backs to help bring home a Southern Section championship.
Raleek Brown, Ajon Bryant and Quincy Craig each rushed for a touchdown as Mater Dei took care of Servite by a final score of 27-7 to claim its third Southern Section crown since 2017 and its second win over Servite this season. Mater Dei will now play in the CIF Open Division championship game on Dec. 11 against a yet to be determined opponent.
The rematch between Mater Dei and Servite did not resemble the high-scoring regular season meeting in which the Monarchs held on for a 46-37 win. Mater Dei turned to a ground and pound style of play, with Craig rushing for four touchdowns and Brown, an Oklahoma commit rushing for 163 yards and a score.
Star sophomore quarterback Elijah Brown pitched in 247 yards through the air for Mater Dei, helping to mitigate a monster game by Servite’s quarterback-wide receiver duo of Noah Fifita and Tetairoa McMillan. Fifita threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns — both of which went to McMillan, who caught 15 passes for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first meeting between the two teams.
Elijah Brown threw an interception on the first play of the game and Servite took advantage of the score to take an early 7-0 lead. The Friars would not find paydirt again, though, as Mater Dei’s defense took over and its offense made more than enough plays to put its Trinity League rival away. Servite had a chance to tie things up at 14 in the second quarter, but Craig came up big on defense by forcing a fumble to protect Mater Dei’s lead heading into halftime.
Mater Dei gave itself some breathing late in the third quarter with a short Raleek Brown rushing touchdown and sealed the game with an Elijah Brown touchdown pass to Notre Dame commit C.J. Williams with two minutes remaining.
Mater Dei entered Friday night’s title bout facing controversy after reports of an alleged hazing incident surfaced during the week, making national headlines. The news took much of the focus away from the championship game, but Mater Dei was able to lock back in against one of the best teams in the nation to keep its season alive and add some hardware to its trophy case.