A team ranked tops in the nation all season and a team with its thoughts and hopes clouded by smoke and fire at home earned their first-ever state titles Dec. 16 in the finals of the CIF Championship Bowl Series.
Dominating their opposition much as they had all year long, Mater Dei of Santa Ana and Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara won the state Open Division and Division 3-AA championships, respectively --- the Monarchs, 52-21 over De La Salle of Concord, and the Cardinals, 41-6 over Shasta of Redding.
For Bruce Rollinson-coached Mater Dei, its victory on a windy, chilly night at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento capped an unbeaten (15-0) season in which it outscored its opponents 724-229 on its way to the Trinity League and CIF-Southern Section Division 1 titles. The Monarchs capitalized all night long on De La Salle mistakes, with 31 of their points coming from Spartan turnovers.
Junior quarterback J.T. Daniels completed 20 of 30 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for two more scores. Amon-Ra St. Brown counted two TDs among his eight catches for 137 yards, and began the scoring with a 38-yard scoring reception from Daniels on the game’s opening drive.
Two De La Salle turnovers led to touchdown runs by Daniels (one-yard) and Shakobe Harper (15 yards), and a 21-0 first quarter bulge. The Spartans capitalized on a Monarch fumble to close the gap to 21-7 and were driving again when Zion Alefosio intercepted and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown.
Nicolas Lopez’ 28-yard field goal following yet another turnover made it 31-7, and while De La Salle managed a late first half score, it could not stop coughing up the ball. Another fumble led to Daniels’ two-yard TD pass to Bru McCoy early in the third quarter; Daniels scooted 40 yards later in the quarter for a 45-14 lead; and a 22-yard Daniels-to-St. Brown TD in the fourth quarter completed the scoring.
A Santa Barbara first
With its triumph at Cal Lutheran’s William Rolland Stadium in Thousand Oaks --- 56 miles from where the Thomas Fire was threatening homes a few miles from its campus --- Bishop Diego (15-1) added the first-ever state title won by a Santa Barbara County school to the CIF-SS Division 6 title it won two weeks earlier. Coached by Tom Crawford, the Cardinals outscored their opponents 694-171.
Bishop Diego spotted Shasta (12-2) a long touchdown pass two minutes into the game, then completely shut down the Wolves afterwards. John Harris rushed for 146 yards (giving him 5,126 for his career) and tallied three touchdowns, the first on a 25-yard pass from Jake Engel shortly after Shasta’s score, followed by Jack Luckhurst’s extra point kick that gave Bishop Diego a 7-6 lead they never relinquished.
A few minutes later, Harris ran 59 yards for a touchdown, and Engel’s 18-yard TD pass to Evan McKeegan gave the Cardinals a 21-6 halftime edge. Scoring passes by Engel and David Gladish opened the advantage to 35-6 entering the fourth quarter, and Harris’ 19-yard run early in the fourth quarter ended the scoring as the Cardinals’ superior line play dominated both sides of the field against a Shasta team that had won eight straight.