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LONG BEACH– Mater Dei put on the best defensive clinic California high school football has seen in years to defeat Servite 27-7 on Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The Monarchs' Southern Section Division 1 championship victory wrapped up an undefeated title run, and they'll now advance to the CIF State Open Division championship. Here are five takeaways from the game:


On the game's first play from scrimmage, a Mater Dei pass was deflected off of a receiver and into the arms of Servite OLB Zion Sims. Taking over possession at MD's 28-yard line, the Friars quickly converted the opportunity into a touchdown catch by WR Tetairoa McMillan from QB Noah Fifita. The PAT was good, and Servite had successfully stormed out to a momentous 7-0 lead just a couple minutes into the game, with Mater Dei's coin-toss decision to receive completely wasted.

And that would be it for the Friars, who would never score again. It was a very far cry from when these teams met a month ago in league play, when Mater Dei won 46-37. The Monarchs would spend the rest of the game on a 27-0 run, and their defense would put on an impeccable performance for the ages. Their defensive prowess was so widespread amongst all 11 players on the field that picking out any one part of it would be nearly impossible.

Mater Dei's front seven got the best of Servite's offensive line far more than any other front has in the past two seasons. OLB Tanner Williams had a timely breakout performance, finishing with two sacks and a small handful more of QB-hurries. DE/OLB David Bailey was also a lot more dominant than his 1.5 sacks would indicate, even though he played the entire game with a large cast on one of his arms. The pass-rush presented Fifita with an insurmountable obstacle like none he's faced at the high school level, and he was held to 86 passing yards. The Friars faced a similarly formidable pass-rush last week against St. John Bosco, so they carved up SJB with the run to win 40-21 thanks to some tremendous run-blocking. But Mater Dei clamped Servite's running game too, and Fifita finished with -19 rushing yards.

That said, the Monarchs' secondary left nothing to be desired either. They held Fifita to under 50 passing yards until fairly late in the fourth quarter, and CB Cameron Sidney did a remarkable job – with great help from the safeties – keeping McMillan from breaking free. Sidney also recovered a fumble that was forced by DB/RB Quincy Craig. CB Zabien Brown's coverage made star Servite TE Keyan Burnett a non-factor. DB Jeilani Davis snagged a pick in the fourth quarter that helped bury the game before it was over. Simply put, the defensive backfield was as blanketing as it gets, and the whole defense fired on every cylinder.

"We just played team defense," Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson said. "We doubled T-Mac and I thought our defensive coaches did a great job of mixing our fronts and our coverages. It turned out to benefit us.”

"That first drive [wasn 't great], but after that we locked in," said ILB Malaki Te'o. "And then we were locked in all night."

Offensively it wasn't a lights-out effort for Mater Dei's offense, but they were steady and got the job done with plenty of room to spare. Quincy Craig ran for a touchdown in the first quarter to tie the game at seven, and RB Ajon Bryant ripped off a 27-yard TD run in the second quarter to give MD a 14-7 halftime lead. RB Raleek Brown flew over the trenches and into the end zone late in the third quarter to make it 21-7. And QB Elijah Brown lofted a well-timed ball up to WR C.J. Williams on a fourth down through heavy single-coverage to add icing on the cake late in the fourth. Raleek Brown was the Monarchs' clear offensive star of the night, finishing with 164 rushing yards.


While Mater Dei pulled away a little bit too early to call this game a true defensive battle, the Friars turned in a great defensive effort. They were hardly able to get a stop when they fell 46-37 to their rival in league play, but on Friday, they held Mater Dei to under 30 points in a game for the second straight season. Other than Corona Centennial last week, no other team has held the Monarchs to under 34 points since 2018. And St. John Bosco was the only other California team since 2018 to hold Mater Dei under 40.

Tetairoa McMillan added an interception for Servite.


Mater Dei is going to lose a montage of senior talent after this season, but the Monarchs have to be considered a substantial favorite to repeat atop the section with everyone returning. And the amount of young talent that showed out in this game really drives the point home.

For example, sophomores Davis and Tanner Williams had breakout performances in this game on defense, and they're a couple of the only members of Mater Dei's rotation that aren't national recruits (yet). Elijah Brown and Bryant both had their moments, Mater Dei's young O-line played very well for much of the night, junior LB Leviticus Su'a was a big part of the defensive front, Zabien Brown continued his outstanding sophomore season in coverage, and the list really does go on.


The Monarchs are one more win away from an undisputed national title, and they'll be the colossal favorite against whoever they play in the CIF State Open Division finals. Frankly, it would take one of the bigger upsets in recent high school football history for Mater Dei not to finish the season as the national champion.


Furthermore, even if the unthinkable happens, Mater Dei's outstanding 2022 class has already locked in its legacy by officially running the table in the Southern Section. Of course, the Monarchs swept the Trinity League as the undisputed top team in California in the spring, and would've been the top seed and favorite had there been a postseason. This job isn't finished by Mater Dei standards, but their vaunted C/O 2022 has officially added to the borderline-dynasty the program is in the midst of.