Most teams would be thrilled with a 21-3 halftime lead in a state semifinal game, but the St. John Bosco Braves aren’t “most teams.” Considered by many to be the nation’s top high school football team, Bosco hasn’t won a game all season by fewer than 19 points, and fully believes that its greatest opponent is on its own sideline.

“When we have the ball, no one in this country can stop us except for ourselves,” claims Bosco senior running back Sean McGrew.

So as the Braves headed to the locker room at Cerritos College the evening of Nov. 27 after building an 18-point lead against the nation’s 18th ranked Bishop Amat Lancers, they didn’t find themselves celebrating the 21 points they put on the board, but rather lamenting the potential 14 points they had left on the field.

“We had a couple possessions in the first half where we should’ve scored. We were in the red zone and shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and jumping offsides,” recalls Bosco senior quarterback Quentin Davis. “So we went in the locker room and said, ‘We gotta execute better. Do better with our assignments.’”

If the first half, by Bosco’s standards, was an example of the Braves shooting themselves in the foot, the second half saw them shoot the Lancers’ hopes right between the eyes. Scoring 21 points over the course of the second half’s opening five minutes, Bosco played a virtually flawless second half en route to a commanding 63-10 statement win over the valiant but ultimately overmatched Bishop Amat team.

Firing on all cylinders

Nothing during Friday’s second half, nothing — not the Amat defense, not the cold weather, and especially not themselves — could stop the Braves from moving the chains. That effort revolved around Davis, who threw four touchdown passes (three to senior wideout Devin Fleming, one to senior wideout Jared Harrell), and punched another one in on the ground (junior running back Terrence Beasley was responsible for Bosco’s sixth offensive touchdown).

“Literally every person on the field on offense, all five receivers, can make plays on any given down. Any given play,” says McGrew, who rushed for 102 yards during the game. “I think that’s hard for opposing defenses to cover when every single guy can make a big play.”

But, incredibly, during a half in which Bosco’s offense fired on all cylinders, it was actually Bosco’s defense that stole the show.

Early in the third quarter, Bosco junior defensive lineman Jacob Callier returned an interception for a touchdown and, in a sequence that felt like deja vu, returned a fumble for a touchdown on the very next defensive sequence.

Sophomore defensive back Stephan Blaylock also got in on the fun, returning an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“The defense was remarkable,” says Bosco head coach Jason Negro. “Three scores, four turnovers. And I have to acknowledge the kickoff and special teams. Those guys played really well. I’m really pleased with the overall effort.”

The only thing that didn’t go perfectly for Bosco could actually have a lingering effect on their encore effort. In the first half, the aforementioned Harrell endured a high ankle sprain, had to be helped off the field, and did not return to play in the second half. Though the sequence propagated a rare hush throughout the otherwise raucous Bosco crowd, Bosco’s personnel is confident that Harrell will be ready to play next week.

Up next: Centennial

Though the Braves’ players may be right in stating that their most dangerous opponent is themselves, perhaps a close second is Centennial of Corona, who is ranked number two in the nation. Going into the season, many experts suggested that Bosco and Centennial were on a collision course and would meet for the Pac 5 title. That dream matchup will come to fruition at Angels Stadium on Dec. 5.

“The key will be executing the gameplan on offense and not shooting ourselves in the foot when we get in the redzone like we did tonight,” predicts McGrew. “Those points next week are going to be key. Corona has a high tempo offense and they score a lot of points. So it could be a shootout.”

Whether this championship bout ends up being a shootout or a grind, Bosco is supremely confident in its chances of emerging on top.

“They’re determined. It’s a determined group,” says Jason Negro of his players. “They have a lot of inner confidence. We’re going to continue to try to play as physical and fast as possible. If we combine those two things, we’re going to be hard to stop.”