LOS ANGELES - An epic Southern California high school football showdown between national number one Mater Dei-Santa Ana and number five St. John Bosco-Bellflower lived up to the hype. Mater Dei prevailed 31-21, thanks in large part to dominating performances from junior quarterback J.T. Daniels and star wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown.
“Whenever you get to play a top five team nationally, and have your offense and defense really step up, it’s a good feeling,” Daniels said.
“Bosco is one of our biggest rivals, and they are a great team with great coaches, so to beat them if huge for us as a program,” St. Brown added.
Daniels threw for a phenomenal 324 yards and two touchdowns, with a completion percentage of 74%. St. Brown caught nearly everything thrown his way, finishing with 212 yards and two scores off eight grabs.
Despite starting quarterback and Iowa State-commit Re-al Mitchell sidelined with an undisclosed injury, Bosco held its own, led by sophomore backup D.J. Uiagalelei, who has more Division I offers than high school starts. Uiagalelei has earned offers from national powerhouses such as USC and Alabama, and showed why Friday night.
He tossed two touchdowns and 256 yards, while also rushing for 55.
“I could’ve done some things better and wish I could go back and change some things, but in these kinds of games you can’t make any mistakes,” Uiagalelei commented.
Trailing 21-7, with just under six minutes remaining in the half, Bosco’s offense was off to a rather slow start. Uiagalelei had been pressured and forced into several arrant throws early, and Bosco needed its sophomore star recruit to grow up fast.
Two plays into the drive, from the 27-yard line, Uiagalelei completed a pass to Colby Bowman, who broke free and scored a momentum shifting touchdown, with 5:06 left in the second quarter.
A penalty on the ensuing kickoff pinned Mater Dei inside its own 10-yard line. For Daniels and company, however, field position didn’t matter.
A St. Brown catch and run advanced Mater Dei all the way down to Bosco’s 15, and the stud receiver caught his second pass in a row for a 15-yard score, moments later.
Leading 28-14, four minutes until halftime, Mater Dei hoped to contain Uiagalelei and preserve their two score lead. Bosco had other plans. From the 44-yard line, three straight big plays from junior running back George Holani, highlighted by a 34-yard scamper to the end zone, cut Bosco’s deficit to just one score at the half.
Bosco received the ball to start second half play, but failed to capitalize, quickly going three-and-out. Daniels had the ball yet again for Mater Dei, and from inside their own territory, led the Monarchs on another scoring drive.
A combination of C.J. Parks and St. Brown receptions, in addition to several keepers from Daniels himself, led Mater Dei to a 28-yard field goal attempt. Junior kicker Nicolas Lopez converted, giving Mater Dei a ten point 31-21 advantage.
Late in the fourth, Bosco still trailing 31-21, the Braves had several great opportunities to cut into Mater Dei’s lead. With just over 3:30 left in regulation, Uiagalelei guided Bosco to a 1st and goal at inside Mater Dei’s 10-yard line.
Back-to-back short gains created a must-score third and goal situation for Bosco, but Mater Dei’s defensive line reach Uiagalelei and sacked him in the backfield, bringing up a 4th and 15.
Only 1:11 remained in the game, and down 10 points, Bosco decided to kick a 32-yard field goal, which would bring them within one score. Mater Dei sealed the victory with an emphatic block, ending all hopes of a Bosco second half comeback.
The rivalry between Mater Dei and St. John Bosco only deepens with friday night’s events, as the Monarchs were able to avenge their 2016 CIF Southern Section Championship defeat at the hands of the Braves.
While Mater Dei will certainly like another shot at Bosco in the 2017 CIF playoffs, St. Brown summed up his team’s focus perfectly.
“We’re going to enjoy what we did tonight, and then get right back on the grind tomorrow,” St. Brown added.