June 23, 2024

Are there chinks in the armor of unbeaten Mater Dei?

A week ago in Maryland, the Mater Dei offense struggled against Baltimore St. Frances. Quarterback Elijah Brown completed 10 of 21 passes for 57 yards in a 20-7 victory. Two of Mater Dei’s three touchdowns were scored by defensive players. The fact a team that lost to St. John Bosco 37-14 was able to make the Monarchs sweat raised questions whether the preseason hype about Mater Dei having no weaknesses might be way off.

The start of their five-game Trinity League gauntlet on Friday night against Servite presented a fresh look at where the Monarchs stand.

As they would say in a State of the Union speech, the State of Mater Dei is just fine.

Brown answered skeptics by completing his first six passes while finishing 21-of-26 passing for 303 yards and four touchdowns. Mater Dei’s swarming defense kept dropping Servite players for losses so many times the Friars’ student section dressed in white long sleeve shirts and ties had no moments for primal screams. Ramere Davis had two of Mater Dei’s four sacks.

By the game’s conclusion, the Monarchs had improved to 6-0 with a 49-0 victory over the Friars and left little doubt they remain the team to beat in Southern California high school football.

“I think it’s a special defense,” coach Frank McManus said. “The challenge is to be the best defense to come out of Mater Dei. They’re playing fast and confident.”

Of course, the Monarchs’ drive for perfection is far from complete. Mater Dei had four penalties in the first quarter and another penalty to start the second quarter that nullified an interception. The Monarchs were called for five personal fouls and 10 penalties overall. Those penalties might be meaningless playing Servite (4-2), but when it comes to facing St. John Bosco in two weeks, they better disappear.

The good news is the defense really has no weaknesses. The linebackers are exceptional. Whether it was Nasir Wyatt throwing aside a running back trying to block him, resulting in a sack, or Abduall Sanders speed rushing from the other side, the Monarchs know how to make life miserable for quarterbacks.

The offense continues to be a work in progress. Brown, in his fourth season as a starter, has a new offensive coordinator and continues to adjust. The Monarchs are figuring out their receiver and running back rotations. Nine players caught passes.

They might want to get the ball to Marcus Brown a little more. He had two catches Friday, both for touchdowns, giving him seven this season. Elijah Brown got things going by passing to running backs Ajon Bryant and Nathaniel Frazier on the first drive.

“We’re getting better every week,” offensive coordinator Eric Rescigno said.

Mater Dei had the opportunity to try out its new backup quarterback, freshman Reagan Toki, who has replaced Cole Leinart (transferred to Newport Harbor). Toki had a 40-yard touchdown pass to Kayden Dixon-Wyatt.

There’s no doubt Mater Dei and St. John Bosco are on a collision course. The Braves opened Trinity League play with a 42-7 win over Santa Margarita. They get Servite next week. Mater Dei will play JSerra. Then all the focus can be on the annual game of the year.

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