Video: De La Salle-Mater Dei preview
MaxPreps football editor Zack Poff and host Myckena Guerrero break down CIF Open title game.
CERRITOS, Calif. —
When two of the nation's most storied football programs — top-ranked Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
and No. 8 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
collide for a second straight season for the CIF State Open Division championship Saturday at Cerritos College — terms such as payback, redemption and revenge most aptly apply.
De La Salle sent Mater Dei, then a two-time national champion, reeling with four straight victories, starting in the late 1990s. Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson, who can win his 300th career game on Saturday, didn't mince words about how the four losses setback his program.
"I had some good teams, but (De La Salle) enforced
their will ... twice," Rollinson said before last
year's game. "We played them four times and we didn't get it done even
once. That resonated with a lot of people then, like, ‘C'mon this is
Mater Dei. This isn't supposed to happen to us.' "
They surely got it done last year and it made a 52-21 beat down at Sacramento State all the more satisfying. Mater Dei led 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and had a 152-3 edge in total yards. De La Salle fumbled eight times, lost four and gave up a pick 6.
The Spartans were never really in it.
Rollinson said the Monarchs, who never trailed once in 2017 and were crowned national champions, had incentive.
"I told them I was 0-4 against these guys and it definitely got their attention," Rollinson said after the game.
The Monarchs definitely caught the attention of at least 30 current De La Salle players, who were on last year's team. The Spartans had to sit with that defeat all during the offseason.
De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh, who doesn't normally get caught up with history, said it's impossible not to use payback as a key motivating factor in Saturday's game.
"If our kids don't feel this is a chance for redemption then man, I've
been out of school way too long," Alumbaugh said on Monday. "There's no other way
to see it. ... They kicked our teeth
in. I know our coaches felt it and I'm quite sure our players felt it
Many of Mater Dei's key players are long gone, but the Monarchs (12-2) have reloaded in a hurry.
They got it done last year with the MaxPreps National Player of the Year JT Daniels
and 5-star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown
, this season starters at USC, and one of the best offensive lines in state history.
The Monarchs lost all of that to graduation, but replaced Daniels with 5-star junior dual-threat Bryce Young
(3,550 passing yards, 37 touchdowns) and the entire offensive line.
Young has his own 5-star receiver in Bru McCoy
(71 catches, 1,312 yards, 17 TDs), an equally effective line, a big running threat in Shakobe Harper
(1,150 yards, 17 TDs) and bigger tight end in 6-6, 240-pound Mike Martinez
(37, 574, 6), who sports size 19 shoe and 4X gloves.
"They're doing things a little bit different with a running quarterback," Alumbaugh said. "But they have lots of weapons and excellent schemes."
Defensively, the Monarchs might have the best secondary in the country and it includes the nation's top-rated cornerback Elias Ricks
, who had three pick-6s during a 48-14 Southern Section semifinal win over then nationally ranked Centennial-Corona (Riverside Co.).
"They're defense is just outstanding," Alumbaugh said. "They have a lot of big dudes, they play physical and fast and that secondary is very impressive."
They showed that in its 17-13 Southern Section D1 championship win over then national No. 1 St. John Bosco-Bellflower on Nov. 23, avenging its only loss on the field in three seasons, 41-18 on Oct. 13. (Mater Dei forfeited a season-opening 42-14 win over Bishop Amat-La Puente for using an ineligible player).
The Monarchs also have a 42-0 win over 10-time defending Nevada state champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), a team De La Salle squeaked past 27-21. In addition, Mater Dei's has an impressive triumph, 28-24, over IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) on Sept. 21. IMG draws blue chip talent from throughout the country.
"That's about all you need to know how good they are again this year," Alumbaugh said.
The Spartans (12-0) are clearly better than they were last season.
Their defense, led by preseason All-Americans Henry To'oto'o
and Isaiah Foskey
, is one of the best in school history. That showed that right off the bat with a 14-0 win over No. 21 Folsom (Calif.), which has scored 670 points over its next 12 games.
The team's secondary is dynamic, shown Saturday with four interceptions against 4-star junior quarterback Jay Butterfield in a 42-7 North Coast Section Open Division title win over Liberty (Brentwood, Calif.).
The offense is considerably better than last year, largely because of quarterback play and sophomore Dorian Hale
, who is an equal threat passer and runner. Shamar Garrett
, Grant Daley
and James Coby
all are game-breakers.
"This is a real good group," Alumbaugh said of his Spartans. "A real good De La Salle team. They work hard. Everyone we played is either played for a section or state title. And we're still undefeated. That's great. But there's still a lot of meat on the bone heading into Saturday."
It's pretty meaty for the 70-year-old Rollinson as well. Winning his 300th career game against the program against the team that sent his program reeling, would be extremely satisfying, and the ultimate act of redemption.