COSTA MESA – Mater Dei’s run toward its first CIF-SS championship in football since 1999 got off to an inauspicious start Friday night at Orange Coast College.
The Monarchs fumbled the ball to Vista Murrieta on their first offensive play of the game. But Mater Dei knows it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. And the Monarchs are wanting these playoffs to end with a Division 1 championship.
The Monarchs certainly finished strong against overmatched Vista Murrieta, as Mater Dei dominated in its 49-7 victory.
Up next for the Monarchs (11-0) will be Long Beach Poly, which beat JSerra on Friday. Poly won the coin flip and will play host to the second-round game Friday, Nov. 17.
“I don’t really care about that,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said of the fumble that came after a reception. “I want my guys trying to make plays and that’s all that was. It’s not customary for him to do that. He’s had tremendous success. I don’t even give it a second thought. Like I told him forget about it. We’ll stop them and you’ll get some more balls.”
The Monarchs don’t want their season to end like last year’s, with a loss to St. John Bosco in the championship. That loss stung, yet it has fueled Mater Dei, which is the top-ranked team in the nation by USA Today.
“The goal is to win CIF,” said wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who finished with four catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. “That’s been the goal since the end of last season when we lost. That’s been the only thing on our minds, but we know we have to take it one game at a time.”
Mater Dei had several highlights in its playoff opener, especially in the first half, when the Monarchs scored on four straight possessions after the fumble.
Mater Dei’s defense got the ball back on the ensuing play after the fumble with a fumble recovery of its own.
Glenn Harper scored on 6-yard touchdown run. Chris Street plunged in from a yard out. Kody Epps caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from JT Daniels and St. Brown brought in a beautiful pass for a 48-yard TD from Daniels.
Elias Ricks also produced a big-time play when he took back an interception for a 36-yard touchdown.
Corbin Utley, a receiver who wears No. 95, capped the scoring with a 28-yard reception from quarterback Carter Freedland.
Daniels threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns on 12-for-18 passing with no interceptions.
Vista Murrieta finished the season with a 4-7 overall record.