SANTA ANA, Calif. — In head coach Bruce Rollinson's final game at Santa Ana Stadium, Mater Dei's dynasty rolled on.
The Monarchs beat Los Alamitos 52-0 in the Division 1 Southern Section semifinals on Friday to advance to next week's championship game at the Rose Bowl against rival St. John Bosco. Mater Dei has played for every Division 1 championship in the Southern Section since 2016. The Monarchs will be looking to send Rollinson, who announced he'll be retiring after this season, out with his ninth CIF championship in his 34 years in charge next Friday.
"It's very emotional," Rollinson said. "But I'm excited about going to the finals. That's our goal and I'm pleased that we made it."
Los Alamitos looked like a team that had run out of gas following a 52-42 quarterfinal win over Long Beach Poly last week. Griffins' stars Makai Lemon, a receiver/defensive back, and Damian Henderson, a running back, were battling injuries and didn't start against Mater Dei, but both did play. Quarterback Malachi Nelson left the game in the second quarter after taking a sack and landing awkwardly. He did not return.
The Griffins turned the ball over on downs on their first possession and Mater Dei responded with a 33-yard field goal from Andre Medina to go up 3-0. Later in the first quarter, a 14-yard touchdown run from Jordon Davison extended Mater Dei's lead to 10-0.
With 9:47 left in the second quarter, a 43-yard touchdown run from Nate Frazier put the Monarchs ahead 17-0. Two minutes later, Mater Dei quarterback Elijah Brown threw a shovel pass to Ajon Bryant that Bryant took 63 yards into the end zone. At halftime, Mater Dei led 24-0.
The Monarchs scored four touchdowns in the third quarter to extend their lead to 52-0. A 41-yard touchdown run from Davison got the second half scoring started. Zabien Brown then scored on a 24-yard interception he returned for a touchdown. Receiver Marcus Harris hauled in an impressive 18-yard TD reception after Brown's touchdown and then Josh Clark blocked a punt and returned it for a score.
1. Malachi Nelson looks to be okay
Although Nelson, a senior USC commit, did not play again after leaving the game in the second quarter, he came out of the locker room in the third quarter and participated in Los Al's tradition of having their seniors line up and say good bye to their underclassmen teammates. Nelson's injury is not believed to be serious, per a source.
2. Los Al's season ends in an ugly fashion, but it was a great year
There's no shame in losing to Mater Dei, especially in the Division 1 semifinals. The Griffins won the Sunset League and won a game in the D1 playoffs to make the final four. They end the year at 9-3. Led by Nelson, Lemon, Henderson and a number of other impact players, the Griffins put together one of the best seasons in school history.
3. Mater Dei and St. John Bosco are in a league of their own
Both CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals were lopsided. St. John Bosco won its Division 1 semifinal game against Mission Viejo 41-6. The Southern Section wants its football playoff divisions to be competitive, but Mater Dei and St. John Bosco proved tonight that no other teams in the Section can hang with them. That's the unfortunate reality this season. Last year, Servite and Corona Centennial were competitive with Mater Dei and St. John Bosco. Outside of a scrappy regular season performance from JSerra against Mater Dei, no one has been competitive with the two schools this fall. When Mater Dei played JSerra for a second time in the playoffs, they won 54-14.
4. Mater Dei came to play
Elijah Brown improved to 29-0 as the Monarchs starting quarterback against Los Alamitos, but he didn't have to do too much. The Monarchs' three headed rushing attack of Davison, Frazier and Bryant put on a show. Harris' touchdown catch was one of the best snags of the year and Zabien Brown's pick-six was a thing of beauty. The Monarchs put on a clinic.
5. 56 years later, Rollinson is done at 'The Bowl'
The OC Register's Steve Fryer tweeted out this morning that Rollinson, who played defensive back and receiver at Mater Dei in the 1960's, played his last game at the Santa Ana Bowl in 1966 in a 41-7 win over Muir. Friday night truly marked the end of an era.