LANCASTER — Mater Dei quarterback John Flynn swaggered off the field a winner for the third consecutive week.
Again, he'd been hounded and pounded. Again, he and the Monarchs came out on the up side. Some might wonder how. But Flynn had an answer.
"Great teams win close games, you know?" Flynn said.
Greatness is in the eye of the beholder, but the Monarchs were something to behold Friday in Southern Section Division I semifinals. Their 15-11 victory against Lancaster Antelope Valley was won by determination. For the third consecutive week, Mater Dei refused to be counted out.
The Monarchs trailed, 5-0, at halftime and rallied. They led, 15-5, in the fourth quarter, and barely held on with well-worn fingernails.
It was just another week of stress-the-coach.
"I finally figured this team out," Coach Bruce Rollinson said. "They're a bunch of free spirits.
"But we're going back."
The Monarchs (12-1) will play the winner of tonight's Rialto Eisenhower-Encino Crespi game next Friday. It's their second title game appearance in three seasons.
To get back there, the Monarchs have had to come from behind three consecutive weeks.
"It takes a little luck," Flynn said. "We've had our share."
The Monarchs' latest sleight of hand was the hardest. They had to outlast an Antelope Valley team that had knocked off top-seeded La Puente Bishop Amat last week.
The Antelopes controlled the first half, stopping the Monarchs at every turn.
But all they had to show for it was a 38-yard field goal by Chad Shrout and C.J. Fagan's blocked punt that resulted in a safety.
The way the Monarchs were playing, it looked to be enough. Dropped passes, key penalties and bone-head plays stopped one Mater Dei drive after another.
"I told them at halftime that we were shooting ourselves in the foot," Rollinson said.
The Monarchs, especially Flynn, took better aim during the third quarter.
He completed four consecutive passes on the Monarchs' first possession of the third quarter. He also scrambled 17 yards, going head-to-head with two Antelope Valley linebackers.
As a result, the Monarchs were able to overcome two clipping penalties. Flynn added the final touches by tossing a 27-yard touchdown pass to Michael-John Rzeznik, who had burned defensive back Chad Murphy on a stop-and-go pattern.
Flynn, who was nine of 14 for 99 yards, then hit Rzeznik for a two-point conversion and a 8-5 lead.
"This offense gets going and we put it together," Flynn said.
That was about the extent of the Monarchs' offense. But then the defense was theirs to provide.
Defensive back Robbie Tritz intercepted a pass from Mike Gleich and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown with 11 minutes left. The Monarchs led, 15-5, then held on.
The defense again provided. A 25-yard touchdown run by Trymon Redick cut the lead to four, 15-11, with nine minutes left. The Antelopes got the ball back with four minutes left. But the Monarchs held on three downs.