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Mater Dei Catholic holds off Helix 24-21 to advance to CIF 2-AA state championship game: 3 takeaways

Mater Dei Catholic forced a Helix turnover on downs with less than a minute left to play to record the victory in the CIF 2-AA Southern Regional Bowl Game, 24-21.
Photo by Steven Silva

Photo by Steven Silva

CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Since the CIF State matchups were first announced last Sunday, there had been a buzz about Friday night’s game featuring Helix and Mater Dei Catholic, two San Diego Section winners from a week ago, matching up in a game that had been scheduled for week three this season before COVID-19 protocols forced its cancellation. The two teams delivered on Friday night.

Mater Dei Catholic forced a Helix turnover on downs with less than a minute left to play to record the victory in the CIF 2-AA Southern Regional Bowl Game, 24-21. Below are three observations from Friday's game:

(Lead photo by Steven Silva)

DEFENSE THE DIFFERENCE

Mater Dei Catholic was held to its lowest point total of the season on Friday night and was held under 35 points for only the second time this season, but the defense stepped up and saved the day.

Trailing 21-17 coming out of halftime, sophomore Isaiah Buxton made a great play for an interception, giving the Crusaders the ball on their own 20-yard line. Dominic Nankil found Jerry McClure for an 80-yard bomb on the next play that would turn out to be the winning score.

“That really gave us a lot of momentum,” junior two-way starter Chris Snyder Jr said. “Isaiah stepped up and got us a big stop we needed, and offense came out and got the touchdown to put us up and finished the game off for us.”

Helix forced a punt to get the ball back with 4:31 left to play and started from the Crusaders’ 45-yard line. The Highlanders continued to move the ball closer until a false start set them back to fourth and nine to go with just over a minute to play.

Ryland Jessee’s out route intended for Xavier Van was broken up by Buxton, turning the ball back over back over to Mater Dei Catholic, allowing them to take a knee to end it.

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"At that point you start to look at the clock, how many timeouts they have, when are they gonna take their shot,” Mater Dei Catholic head coach John Joyner said. “Giving it to (Christian Washington) is as good as throwing it sometimes but we knew they’d throw the ball at least twice. At that point you’re just letting your guys go make a play.”

ALL EYES ON CHRISTIAN WASHINGTON

Christian Washingon has been one of San Diego’s top running backs for a few seasons now but his performance down the stretch this season should cement his spot among the Helix all-time greats.

Washington’s workload was up there again this week, carrying 40 times for 191 yards and three total touchdowns.

"(Christian Washington) is a spectacular player and in high school when there’s somebody on the other side that good, he’s gonna make plays,” Mater Dei Catholic coach John Joyner said. “We just settled down, we tackled better, and the defense was phenomenal.”

Washington scored all three of his touchdowns in the first half on Friday and was largely bottled up in the second half by a Mater Dei Catholic defense that was ready for the running game.

“We just needed to execute the gameplan,” Chris Snyder Jr. said. “We knew they were gonna come out and run the ball down our throats and we needed to just find a way to stop it and we did a good job of that in the second half.”

CRUSADERS ARE HEADED TO SADDLEBACK

Mater Dei Catholic captured a CIF State Championship in 2015 but being in D5-AA, that game was at home against Immanuel (Reedley). This time they’ll head to Saddleback College with the big boys, one of five state championship games that will be played at the junior college next weekend.

“I told these guys it’s like house money,” Mater Dei Catholic head coach John Joyner said postgame. “You win a CIF championship, that’s supposed to be enough. Everything that happens after that is house money, we love it, we’re super excited to keep playing, it just means we get to be together more. These guys had goals, league title was the first one, CIF, now Southern California, now you go take a chance to win a state championship. Whatever happens after here is just one more week of fun.”

The Crusaders will take on Central Catholic of Modesto at 4pm on Friday in the first of five games from Saddleback College. The Raiders beat Bullard (Fresno) 44-41 in the 2-AA Northern Regional game on Friday night.

“I’m just so excited, I can’t wait to play,” Chris Snyder Jr. said. “I’m so glad I’m on this team, I can’t wait.”