LONG BEACH, CA - Mater Dei quarterback J.T. Daniels maneuvered outside the pocket, shed off defenders, and leaped toward the right corner of the end zone for a spectacular four-yard touchdown run. That play, in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, was symbolic of how dominant top-seeded Mater Dei was in the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals Friday night, steamrolling Long Beach Poly 55-13.
Daniels finished with five total scores - three passing and two rushing - to go with 341 total yards of offense. Junior star back Shakobe Harper rushed for two touchdowns, while 6-foot-2 sophomore defensive back Elias Ricks snatched two interceptions.
“This was a special win for me because I’m from here, and I know all the players on the other side,” said Harper. "There were open gaps, thanks to my linemen, and I was able to take advantage of the running lanes.”
Florida-commit Matt Corral led Long Beach Poly with 154 yards through the air, against a relentless Mater Dei defense.
“I came into tonight with a high mentality because of how good Poly’s quarterback is,” said Ricks, who forced two turnovers. “I had a chip on my shoulder out there, knowing I was trying to make a bigger name for myself against him.”
Playing down the street from Poly at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Jackrabbits had home-field advantage coming into the quarterfinal, yet they trailed 20-0 with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half.
A five-minute drive starting at their own 20 resulted in Poly’s first score of the night, a Michael Mauai four-yard touchdown rush. A rare mishap by the Mater Dei defense didn’t halt any offensive momentum for the Monarchs, who responded with their fourth touchdown of the night, after back-to-back Shakobe Harper runs inside the Poly 10-yard line.
With 1:07 left in the second quarter, Long Beach Poly had a chance to end the half with some major momentum. Corral started at his own 26, and gained eight yards on a keeper, followed by a quick incompletion, leaving 26 seconds on the clock. Corral led Poly inside the Mater Dei 20-yard line with 15 seconds left, and scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass to standout 6-foot-4 wideout Jalen Hall as time expired, cutting the deficit to 27-13 at halftime.
Mater Dei shutout Poly for the entire second half, 28-0, thanks to a pair of huge Ricks interceptions and offensive touchdowns from Harper, Daniels, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kody Epps.
The Monarchs struck first on a third-down Daniels touchdown run from the half-yard line. Poly responded with a quick three-and-out, struggling to gain any offensive rhythm. Senior wideout C.J. Parks brought Mater Dei right back inside Poly territory, and Bru McCoy finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown reception.
The Jackrabbits caught a small break, as Mater Dei failed to convert on the point after attempt, keeping the score at 20-0. They continued to struggle offensively, and faced an early key fourth-and-one at the Mater Dei 35. Ricks stuffed Hall in the backfield for a loss on the play, eliminating any momentum the Jackrabbits were trying to seize.
Mater Dei advances to face Mission Viejo in the semifinals next week, a matchup featuring the top two teams in Orange County.
“I don’t think there’s a team that can stop us right now,” Harper said.