Mater Dei’s JT Daniels is the Register’s Male Athlete of the Year

  • Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Orange County Register’s Male Athlete of the Year – Mater Dei football standout JT Daniels in Santa Ana, CA, on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • JT Daniels, right,  celebrates with his father, Steve Daniels,left, as the Mater Dei High quarterback receives the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in a school presentation last December. Both are in USC gear to also signify Daniels’ decision to attend the school early and prepare for the chance to start this fall as part of coach Clay Helton’s latest recrutiing class. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    JT Daniels, right, celebrates with his father, Steve Daniels,left, as the Mater Dei High quarterback receives the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in a school presentation last December. Both are in USC gear to also signify Daniels’ decision to attend the school early and prepare for the chance to start this fall as part of coach Clay Helton’s latest recrutiing class. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s JT Daniels passes against Orange Lutheran during the first half of a Trinity League game at Santa Ana Stadium on Friday, October 27, 2017 in Santa Ana, Calif. (Photo by Josh Barber, Contributing Photographer)

    Mater Dei’s JT Daniels passes against Orange Lutheran during the first half of a Trinity League game at Santa Ana Stadium on Friday, October 27, 2017 in Santa Ana, Calif. (Photo by Josh Barber, Contributing Photographer)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Santa Ana on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Daniels is the All-County Football Team Offensive Player of the Year. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Santa Ana on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Daniels is the All-County Football Team Offensive Player of the Year. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Santa Ana on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Daniels will lead the Monarchs in the upcoming CIF State Championship game against De La Salle High School. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Santa Ana on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Daniels will lead the Monarchs in the upcoming CIF State Championship game against De La Salle High School. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Anaheim on Tuesday, July  25, 2017. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Anaheim on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Anaheim on Tuesday, July  25, 2017. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels in Anaheim on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Quarterback JT Daniels, who officially signed with USC on Wednesday morning, led Mater Dei to a 15-0 record and state title as a junior this past season. (Photo by Matt Masin)

    Quarterback JT Daniels, who officially signed with USC on Wednesday morning, led Mater Dei to a 15-0 record and state title as a junior this past season. (Photo by Matt Masin)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels throws a pass in the first half. Servite was taking on Mater Dei in a Trinity League game at Santa Ana Stadium in Santa Ana, on Friday, November  3, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels throws a pass in the first half. Servite was taking on Mater Dei in a Trinity League game at Santa Ana Stadium in Santa Ana, on Friday, November 3, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s JT Daniels scrambles away from St. John Bosco’s Terrance Beasley in Torrance on Friday, October 13, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s JT Daniels scrambles away from St. John Bosco’s Terrance Beasley in Torrance on Friday, October 13, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s quarterback JT Daniels (18) looks for the open man against Vista Murrieta High School during the CIF-SS Division 1 football quarterfinal playoff game at Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. FRANK BELLINO, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE/SCNG

    Mater Dei’s quarterback JT Daniels (18) looks for the open man against Vista Murrieta High School during the CIF-SS Division 1 football quarterfinal playoff game at Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. FRANK BELLINO, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE/SCNG

  • JT Daniels, 17, Irvine
The Mater Dei High quarterback, who has committed to USC, already has set the Orange County record for career passing yardage, won a state title and was the Gatorade national player of the year as just a junior.
 (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    JT Daniels, 17, Irvine
    The Mater Dei High quarterback, who has committed to USC, already has set the Orange County record for career passing yardage, won a state title and was the Gatorade national player of the year as just a junior.
    (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels passes during a non league game against La Mirada at Santa Ana Stadium on Friday, September 9, 2016. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels passes during a non league game against La Mirada at Santa Ana Stadium on Friday, September 9, 2016. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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JT Daniels, statistically at least, is the best quarterback in Orange County high school history. He was recognized as the best football player in the nation this past fall.

Orange County football has never seen anyone like Daniels, Mater Dei’s quarterback of the past three seasons. His personal dominance, and his leadership role on Orange County high school sports’ most dominate team of the 2017-18 school year, makes Daniels the Register’s Orange County male athlete of the year.

Daniels was at the controls of an offense that averaged 48 points a game while playing one of the more-challenging schedules any O.C. team has played. Mater Dei went 15-0, won the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 championship and the CIF State Open Division title.

The Monarchs’ average margin of victory was 33 points. They never trailed in any of their 15 games.

Daniels threw 52 touchdown passes, the second-most in O.C. history (he set the record of 67 touchdown passes in his sophomore season of 2016).

He completed 72 percent of his passes for 4,123 yards, the second-most in O.C. history (his 4,819 passing yards of the ’16 season is the county single-season record). Daniels averaged 275 passing yards a game, although he was removed at various points in the second half of the Monarchs’ many one-sided wins. Daniels also rushed for 561 yards, averaging 9 yards a carry, and nine touchdowns.

Daniels was at his best in some of the Monarchs’ more important games.

In their 49-24 win over St. John Bosco in the CIF-SS Division 1 championship game, Daniels threw for 299 yards and five touchdowns. It was the fifth time he had five or more touchdown passes in a game in 2017.

Daniels threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more in Mater Dei’s 52-21 win over De La Salle of Concord in the CIF State Open Division championship game.

He had confidence in himself and his teammates. And Daniels’ teammates had confidence in him.

“Whatever we were going to try to do in a game,” Daniels said, “we knew it was going to work. Nobody ever second-guessed a thing.”

It was a spectacular junior year for Daniels, who was recognized as the Gatorade national player of the year.

How good would his senior year be, will never be known.

Daniels decided to skip his senior year at Mater Dei so he could enroll at USC this fall. It took some academics gymnastics to make that happen, but Daniels is being discussed already as potentially the starting quarterback at USC this fall.

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson admits he feels like he’s been robbed of having Daniels around for 2018. But Rollinson also feels gifted by having Daniels for three seasons.

“His physical talent as a quarterback far exceeds any high school kid in recent memory,” Rollinson said. “He has the ability to make all the throws. When you complement the physical ability with his mental grasp of understanding the game, along with his maturity, now you have something that the fans of Orange County football have been able to enjoy the last three years.”

When reviewing Daniels’ career figures, keep in mind he would have added plenty had he stayed at Mater Dei for his senior year.

His 11,984 career passing yards are an Orange County record. The CIF-SS record is 13,109, which is 1,125 more than Daniels’ total and surely within his reach had Daniels hung around for his senior year.

His 152 career passing touchdowns are a county and CIF-SS record.

For Daniels, his personal records are not as important as the Monarchs’ 15-0 record of the 2017 season that he and his teammates achieved and the fun and friendships they enjoyed along the way.

“It was such a tight-knit group of talented guys,” Daniels said. “We had a bunch of great guys who worked hard together for something special.”

It was a special year for Orange County football. JT Daniels made it special.

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USC begins spring practice and search to replace Sam Darnold

LOS ANGELES — Matt Fink lined up in a shotgun formation behind center Brett Neilon, then handed off to receiver Velus Jones on an end-around.

It was a quick play that commenced a walk-through period of USC’s first spring football practice Tuesday afternoon.

The sequence also unofficially kicked off an offseason quarterback competition.

Sam Darnold is no longer behind center for the Trojans after forgoing his final two seasons of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, a departure that leaves the most visible void on the roster. Darnold, considered one of the most talented quarterbacks in program history, set a school record for passing yards last season and is expected to be a high first-round pick in April.

Fink, a redshirt sophomore, and Jack Sears, a redshirt freshman, were left to get the first crack at replacing Darnold. The passers are set to split repetitions over 15 spring workouts, with Fink starting with the first-team offense Tuesday.

Coach Clay Helton said the Trojans will not, though, name a starting quarterback during spring practice.

“At all positions,” Helton said, “it’s an education period in our year, it’s not an evaluation.”

Leaving the competition unsettled until training camp will also allow JT Daniels to enter the mix. Daniels, a touted Mater Dei High passer who was named the Gatorade national player of the year, will enroll for the fall semester after graduating high school a year early.

So a decision on a starter isn’t likely to be reached until much closer to the Sept. 1 season opener against UNLV.

“I’ve always said the man who’s playing the best by the time we get to game one is going to go out there,” Helton said. “The best man’s gotta play in that moment.”

Fink is the only one of the three quarterbacks who has appeared in a college game. He saw action three times last season in mop-up duty as the backup to Darnold.

Asked if he felt the starting job was his position to hold on to, Fink said: “I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing and competing as hard as I can.”

Helton said no one had an edge in the competition.

Sears has taken over for Darnold in the past. He was Darnold’s successor at San Clemente High, where he led the Tritons to a CIF State Division 1-A football championship as a senior in 2016 and left as a four-star recruit. He redshirted last season.

“Learning from Sam, I learned how to be a pro,” Sears said. “How to handle your business on and off the field.”

While Daniels is viewed as a more traditional pocket passer, Fink and Sears are considered more mobile quarterbacks. Late in a victory last season against Oregon State, Fink ran for a 51-yard touchdown.

“What the offense is going to revolve around if they’re playing quarterback is that they can run the ball,” tight end Tyler Petite said, “and that’s something that’s their strong suit. Not that they can’t throw the ball.”

The last time Darnold was not USC’s full-time starting quarterback was when most of the current players were underclassmen or still in high school, making for a different atmosphere at Howard Jones-Brian Kennedy Field.

“It’s a little weird for sure,” Petite said.

During a players-only throwing session earlier this winter, Jake Russell approached Petite with a question.

“Is it kind of different out here?” asked Russell, a walk-on receiver who was among Darnold’s roommates last year.

“At first I said no,” Petite said, “but then I looked at all the guys who were out there.”

There were more new faces, and younger ones, Petite realized.

While Darnold departed early for the NFL, so did running back Ronald Jones, who left as the school’s fifth all-time leading rusher, and leading receiver Deontay Burnett.

Quarterback is the first of several positions on offense to sort out.

“One of the things I see with this football team is a great amount of depth,” Helton said. “It may not have a true superstar right now, but it has some pretty talented individuals.”

QUICK HITS

Cornerback Jack Jones will miss spring practice to focus on academics, Helton said, and is suspended for the season opener because of an unspecified team rules violation. … Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe will be held out of spring practice to heal the hip flexor strain that limited him throughout last season. Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, who is recovering from back surgery, is also out for spring practice. … Offensive tackle/center Toa Lobendahn will miss the first week of spring practice because of knee soreness. … Safety Jamel Cook will miss spring camp and plans to transfer, Helton said. … Helton confirmed reserve offensive linemen Cole Smith and Nathan Smith have medically retired. … Former USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, currently with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was at practice Tuesday and caught passes from the quarterbacks while they warmed up. … The Trojans return to practice Thursday.

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JT Daniels’ reclassification endorsed by quarterback guru Bob Johnson

The best decision for JT Daniels.

That’s how former Mission Viejo football coach and private quarterback guru Bob Johnson views the decision by the Mater Dei junior signal caller to reclassify for the class of 2018 and enroll early at USC.

“He’s ready,” Johnson said Friday, several hours after Daniels’ announcement. “That’s a wise decision for him because of the credentials he has.”

But Johnson, who tutored multiple USC quarterbacks, including his son, Rob, said Daniels isn’t ready to start for the Trojans, who are currently led by Sam Darnold. Johnson believes the soon-to-be 18-year-old is ready to learn the collegiate game, and believes one season as an understudy would serve him best.

“He’s not going to learn anything more in high school,” Johnson said of Daniels, a three-year starter at Mater Dei.

Johnson knows what it takes to be a quarterback at USC. Besides his son, Rob, he coached former Trojan starters Mark Sanchez (Mission Viejo), Carson Palmer (Santa Margarita) and Cody Kessler.

Johnson saw Daniels (6-2, 210) play a lot this past season. In preparation for Mission Viejo’s clash against Mater Dei in the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals, Johnson said he “watch a ton of film” on Daniels.

The future Gatorade National Player of the Year completed 10 of 18 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns and also broke a 52-yard touchdown run in the Monarchs’ 49-21 victory, which ended Johnson’s legendary career.

“He’s really good,” Johnson said.

Daniels faces a rigorous academic road to reach USC but is expected to sign with the Trojans in February, shortly after his birthday.

“He’s going to have a lot of different things happen to him (at USC),” Johnson said. “To challenge himself is pretty nice. … He’s showing some guts.”

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Mater Dei marches to victory over La Mirada without much trouble

SANTA ANA – It’s hard to imagine just how good Mater Dei will be when it is injury free, because right now, the Monarchs are pretty good.

For the third consecutive week, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team – according to USA Today’s Super 25 high school rankings – recorded its third consecutive blowout victory, this time a 42-0 triumph over La Mirada in a nonleague game Friday night, Sept. 8, at Santa Ana Stadium.

In its three consecutive victories to start the season, Mater Dei (3-0) has outscored its opponents, 108-28. But the Monarchs’ next two opponents – Bergen Catholic of New Jersey (ranked No. 17 in the nation) and St. Mary’s of Stockton, the top–ranked team in the Sac-Joaquin Section – promise to be more difficult to handle.

“I thought we were off a little, but we took care of what we had to get done and now we have to regroup and get ready for a national power,” said Monarchs coach Bruce Rollinson.

“Off” is subjective, considering Mater Dei marched down the field with ease at times in handing La Mirada its third consecutive loss to start the season. The Monarchs scored on their first six possessions of the first half, despite committing 13 penalties for 136 yards.

“I got frustrated with all of those flags … but we’ll clean it up,” said Rollinson.

Monarchs junior quarterback JT Daniels completed 13 of 15 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Daniels, last season’s Orange County offensive player of the year, has thrown for 842 yards over three games.

Daniels’ favorite target was again Nikko Remigio, who caught six passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns of 40, 28 and 50 yards. Chris Street added four receptions for 51 yards.

Daniels initiated the scoring on Mater Dei’s first offensive play, surprising the home crowd with his artistry afoot when he faked a handoff to running back Shakobe Harper and zigzagged through the Matadores defense for a 60-yard touchdown.

“Nobody expects him to keep the ball,” said Rollinson, “but the read was there and he did the right thing.”

Ahead 21-0 after consecutive touchdown passes to Remigio, Mater Dei struck again on the ground on a 62-yard touchdown run by Harper. It was Harper’s last carry of the night, as he finished with 69 yards on three carries.

Syrr Barnes capped off a four-play, 45-yard drive with a 2-yard run minutes later, before Daniels completed the scoring with a 50-yard strike to Remigio.

The Monarchs played without All-County senior receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown, still recovering from a finger injury, was not cleared to play by the Monarchs medical team. He has missed all three of this year’s games, but Rollinson said he will be on the field next week.

The Monarchs were also missing star receivers Bru McCoy (tailbone) and C.J. Parks (ankle), as well as starting offensive lineman Chris Murray (sick) and Kekaniokoa Gonzalez (ankle), and nose tackle Samuela Tuihalamaka (suspension). All are expected to be back for next week’s game against Bergen at Mission Viejo High.

As good as Mater Dei’s offense was, its defense was just as stellar, limiting the Matadores to 26 yards total offense. Mater Dei totaled 497 yards of offense – 224 on the ground and 273 through the air.

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Mater Dei uses ground-and-pound attack to beat Bishop Amat

  • Mater Dei’s Alexander Arevalo gets by a tackle from Bishop Amat’s Dominic Barrera. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s Alexander Arevalo gets by a tackle from Bishop Amat’s Dominic Barrera. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s JT Daniels throws his first touchdown of the season in the first quarter.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s JT Daniels throws his first touchdown of the season in the first quarter.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Bishop Amat’s Blake Archuleta slips by a tackle by Mater Dei’s Bru McCoy III. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Bishop Amat’s Blake Archuleta slips by a tackle by Mater Dei’s Bru McCoy III. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s Bru McCoy was just inches short of a touchdown in the first halfMater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s Bru McCoy was just inches short of a touchdown in the first halfMater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels takes off on a 35-yard touchdown run during Friday’s game.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels takes off on a 35-yard touchdown run during Friday’s game.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Bishop Amat’s Jaden Allen pushes forward for extra yardage. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Bishop Amat’s Jaden Allen pushes forward for extra yardage. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s Christopher Street leaps past Bishop Amat’s Dominic Barrera in the first half. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s Christopher Street leaps past Bishop Amat’s Dominic Barrera in the first half. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s Noah Guzman grabs the arm of mater Dei’s Darion Green. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s Noah Guzman grabs the arm of mater Dei’s Darion Green. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Bishop Amat’s Isaiah Samano loses his helmet during a tackle against Mater Dei. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Bishop Amat’s Isaiah Samano loses his helmet during a tackle against Mater Dei. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s Darion Green goes for extra yardage. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s Darion Green goes for extra yardage. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels takes off on a 35-yard touchdown run during Friday’s game.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels takes off on a 35-yard touchdown run during Friday’s game.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Mater Dei cheerleaders welcome the Monarchs to the field at the start of the game. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Mater Dei cheerleaders welcome the Monarchs to the field at the start of the game. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Dario Hurtadoo is less than happy sitting in the lap of his mother Yesinia in the Mater Dei cheering section. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Dario Hurtadoo is less than happy sitting in the lap of his mother Yesinia in the Mater Dei cheering section. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels is brought down by Bishop Amat’s David Montanez and Seth Cloud in the fist half.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels is brought down by Bishop Amat’s David Montanez and Seth Cloud in the fist half.Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat Highin La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Mater Dei’s Glenn Harper slips by Bishop Amat’s Seth Cloud during the first quarter. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Mater Dei’s Glenn Harper slips by Bishop Amat’s Seth Cloud during the first quarter. Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Bishop Amat fans toss colored chalk dust into the air and shout “I believe that we will win.” Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Bishop Amat fans toss colored chalk dust into the air and shout “I believe that we will win.” Mater Dei was taking on Bishop Amat in the season-opening game for both teams at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, CA on Friday, August 25, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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By RICHARD HERNANDEZ
Correspondent

LA PUENTE – Early in the week, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson warned the team’s boosters that looking ahead to next week’s highly anticipated showdown with national power Bishop Gorman could be a dangerous thing since the Monarchs had to face a dangerous team – Bishop Amat – before then.

The Monarchs responded to that message, putting together a dominant defensive performance en route to a 31-7 win over the Lancers on Friday night.

Playing without Amon-Ra St. Brown and C.J. Parks, two of the best receivers in Southern California, the Mater Dei offense focused on chewing up time of possession and yards on the ground.

“I thought we played great defense tonight,” said Rollinson. “We needed to get physical, it’s going to help with our preparation. We had a lot of young kids that played well, so I’m pleased with that.”

The undersized Lancers defense did well to hold Mater Dei to 179 yards rushing on 38 attempts, but bad field position and two long second half drives broke the game open.

Mater Dei led at the half, 17-0, and then opened the third quarter with a 12-play 65-yard drive that lasted just under seven minutes and culminated with a 4-yard touchdown run by Christopher Street.

On the ensuing possession, Amat drove into Monarchs’ territory for the first time but the drive stalled when Blake Archuleta’s pass was intercepted by senior Stephon Robbins near the goal line.

Once again, Mater Dei went back to the ground, rushing 11 times over a 14-play drive that lasted 7:30. Junior quarterback JT Daniels put the game out of reach with his feet, making a nice move in the open field on a 24-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 31-0 with 8:30 left in the game.

Daniels completed 11 of 17 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.

“We felt in our evaluation of the offense that we needed to run the ball a little more,” said Rollinson. “We’ll mix it up and do whatever we need to do to win and tonight that was keep it close and pound the rock.”

Mater Dei’s defense was dominant, sacking Archuleta seven times to go along with two interceptions and a fumble recovery while allowing only 107 yards of total offense to the Lancers.

“Everytime I come up to Kiefer Stadium I have some great memories,” said Rollnson. “That team (Bishop Amat) is going to be a good football team. They are playing with some young players, but they will become a force.”

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