June 19, 2024

There’s a new celebration routine after receiver Marcus Brown of Mater Dei catches a touchdown pass.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Brown and 6-5, 300-pound offensive tackle Brandon Baker have been engaging in a chest bump. As long as no ribs are broken, the more, the merrier.

“It’s great to celebrate with our linemen,” Brown said.

Brown has been the go-to receiver for quarterback Elijah Brown (no relation) since the sixth grade. He will be needed more than ever come Friday night when Mater Dei (7-0) plays at St. John Bosco (6-1) in the annual game of the year among Trinity League teams.

“The energy gets you going,” he said. “It’s the biggest game of the year every year. It’s something special. It’s great to be out there with that atmosphere.”

Two weeks ago, Brown caught two passes, both for touchdowns, against Servite. He and his quarterback rely on each other when the moment requires it.

“I have a great connection with Elijah and we’ve had great chemistry since we were little,” he said. “Whenever the ball is in my hands, I try to put it in the end zone.”

Brown missed his entire sophomore season after breaking his collarbone twice during practice. Last season he stormed onto the scene with 37 receptions and nine touchdowns. This season he has eight touchdowns.

Mater Dei wide receiver Marcus Brown reacts after scoring.

Mater Dei wide receiver Marcus Brown reacts after scoring the team’s first touchdown against Corona Centennial in the season opener.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

That should have provided enough evidence of his value and talents going against strong Division 1 competition, but in this football world where size sometimes takes precedence in the minds of recruiters, all Brown can do is keep showing what happens when he’s on the field.

“I just have to keep proving people wrong,” he said.

Mater Dei’s receiving corps is deep and versatile. Nine players caught passes against Servite and JSerra in the last two weeks.

“We’ve got a slew of great receivers,” Mater Dei coach Frank McManus said.

Elijah Brown started the Servite game firing short passes to his running backs and letting them use their speed to make big plays. He’ll need all his weapons against a St. John Bosco defense that’s the mirror image of Mater Dei’s defense in terms of having few weaknesses.

Marcus Harris, Jonah Smith, Kayden Dixon-Wyatt, Ajon Bryant, Nathaniel Frazier and Jack Ressler are among the options Elijah Brown will have. Brown is 36-1 as a starting quarterback, with the only loss inflicted by St. John Bosco, 24-22, in last year’s Southern Section Division 1 final at the Rose Bowl.

If truth be told, Friday’s game should be a low-scoring affair because the defenses are that good. Just watch for St. John Bosco cornerback Marcelles Williams, who doesn’t give up many receptions. Then there’s Mater Dei linebacker Nasir Wyatt, who likes to terrorize quarterbacks (he has seven sacks).

“It’s a special defense,” McManus said of his group.

Taking care of the football, avoiding penalties and turning opportunities into points will be key to winning. And don’t look for a lot of celebrating afterward. These teams know a second game in the playoffs is usually in the cards.

Either Mater Dei or St. John Bosco has won every Southern Section Division 1 championship game since 2016. They’ve met twice a year with the exception of 2021.

The biggest challenge might be getting a ticket to the game if you’re not a student or parent associated with either school, because only a limited number of tickets will be made available to the general public.

And watch out for chest bumps in the end zone if any touchdowns are scored by Marcus Brown.

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