Mater Dei football offering 'financial assistance' to complete 2024 schedule

California's reigning CIF State Open champions are struggling to fill a 10-game schedule, and are still looking for one more opponent
Mater Dei football new coach Raul Lara addresses the media for the first time on June 5, 2024 at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana.
Mater Dei football new coach Raul Lara addresses the media for the first time on June 5, 2024 at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana. / Tarek Fattal

New Mater Dei football coach, Raul Lara, is facing his first challenge well before the season begins.

As of June 19, the defending CIF State Open Division champion Monarchs have just nine games on their schedule, which begins August 23 at home against Corona Centennial. In the CIF Southern Section, football teams can play one scrimmage and 10 regular-season games. The 2024 season spans from Aug. 23 to Nov. 1.

Mater Dei's ideal fill date is August 30; however, Lara is willing to accommodate a team that can play on September 20. The Monarchs are looking for a home game. But as each day passes, it's more difficult for the national power program to find a game. Most programs have their schedules set for the fall.

"When I got hired, it was late in the ball game," Lara said. "Everyone was full already, no one was available. We're looking out of the area for teams that are willing to travel."

Mater Dei is willing to provide 'financial assistance' to a program that would play at the Santa Ana Bowl, Lara said. Many might think teams are denying the Monarchs in fear of being blown out, but contrary to popular belief, Lara hasn't been getting that response much.

"I'm sure I'll hear more of that right after the 2024 season when I'm scheduling for 2025," Lara said laughing. "Right now, the biggest problem is availability."

Mater Dei plans to have a scrimmage day with Upland and Leuzinger.

Lara, won five CIF titles at Long Beach Poly, spanning from 2004 to 2012. All were in the highest division. He also made stops at Warren High and St. Anthony before landing in Santa Ana. Lara knows what it's like to coach big-time players and lead a big-time program, however, the concern of having to play a nine-game schedule would be a first for the veteran coach.

"I don't think it will come to that," he said. "I'm confident we'll get a game. But in all my years of coaching, I've never played a nine-game schedule because we couldn't find a 10th."

Lara took over for Frank McManus, who was the head coach for one season after taking over for longtime coach Bruce Rollinson, who was the head coach since 1989 before retiring after the 2022 season. McManus was dismissed in April (2024) despite leading the Monarchs to a CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship over rival St. John Bosco and winning the CIF State Open Division crown with a rout of San Mateo Serra, 35-0.

COLUMN: Mater Dei's dismissal of Frank McManus shows it needs CEO, not just a coach

McManus' shortcomings off the field eclipsed his success on the field which ultimately led to his removal.


(*denotes Trinity League | home games)

Aug. 23: vs. Corona Centennial

Aug. 30: OPEN

Sept. 6: vs. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman

Sept. 14: at Hawaii Kahuku

Sept. 20: OPEN

Sept. 27: vs. Baltimore St. Frances Academy

Oct. 4: vs. Santa Margarita*

Oct. 11: at Servite*

Oct. 18: at JSerra*

Oct. 25: vs. St. John Bosco*

Nov. 1: vs. Orange Lutheran*

Published |Modified
Tarek Fattal, SBLive Sports


Tarek Fattal has been covering high school sports since 2015 in Southern California and primarily in Los Angeles, covering notable athletes such as Bronny James, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alyssa Thompson. He was with the LA Daily News for eight years, which included being the beat reporter for the UCLA men's basketball team. Tarek can be seen on TV regularly on CBS/KCAL as a sports analyst with Jim Hill.