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Mater Dei Is Erasing the Memories of 56-3 : This Time, Monarchs Say Trip to Final Won't Be Enough to Satisfy Them

November 15, 1994|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Eleven months' time and 10 convincing victories have helped erase the painful memories of Mater Dei's embarrassing 56-3 defeat to Rialto Eisenhower in last year's Division I title game. But for John Flynn, some memories don't easily fade away.

"I'll never forget walking into the locker room after it was over and seeing the look in the seniors' eyes," Flynn said. "I couldn't think of the pain they were feeling because I knew I had one year left. But I knew it was something they'd have to live with and that it was going to be in their hearts forever."

This year's group of seniors haven't mentioned the numbers 56-3 much, but when they do, Flynn said, it's usually for a reason.

"When we're going through the motions during weightlifting or we've had a bad practice, it always comes up," Flynn said. "It stirs up the memories for the seniors. All the rest of them don't really understand how devastating it really was."

If the Monarchs, ranked second in Orange County, devastate their playoff opponents the way they've devastated their regular-season foes, next's year group of seniors won't have any bitter memories to erase. In going through the regular season undefeated, Mater Dei has piled up 375 points to 115 for its opponents. Its closest game was against third-ranked Esperanza, which it beat, 38-28.

Last year's team lost to Esperanza, 33-7, in the regular season and won two of its games by 10 points or less.

Flynn acknowledged that the 1993 team was fortunate to reach the final.

"We won our three playoff games by a total of 10 points," he said. "Against St. Paul (in the first round), we were losing until I threw a long ball to Michael-John Rzeznik that he caught on his fingertips. Another inch, and our season is over. Long Beach Poly (in the quarterfinals) had us tied except they had a field goal called back because of a penalty. We were living right for three weeks and a kickoff."

Senior tackle Matt Motherway said the team felt it could no wrong.

"We believed we were the team of destiny," Motherway said. "We kind of thought we'd have the storybook ending, and we figured nobody could beat us."

Senior fullback Joey Trampush, who has rushed for 540 yards and averaged 7.4 yards a carry this season, said he believed the same.

"The funny thing is, going into the Eisenhower game, I thought there was no doubt we were going to win," he said. "I mean no doubt. And even coming in at halftime down 35-3, when Coach (Bruce Rollinson) wrote '38-35' on the blackboard, I really thought that was going to happen. I finally realized it wasn't going to happen when they scored to open the second half."

Rollinson, who was suffering from the flu, remembers simply trying to survive the game. At one point, Rollinson became so violently ill, he left the field during the game.

"I was hanging on for dear life," he said. "I knew I had to get to the bathroom. Everybody thought I was having a heart attack because nobody thought I would walk off the field. By that time I was pretty numb to what was happening. When they told me, Eisenhower had scored again, I said, 'It figures.'

"I felt real bad for the seniors. That was a helpless feeling. I couldn't put my fingers in all the holes fast enough. I don't know that even if we'd have played our best game if the result would have been any different."

Flynn said he realizes last year's team had many shortcomings, and he might have been the biggest.

"We can get the big play this year, but last year we couldn't because my arm wasn't too strong," he said. "I wouldn't throw more than 15 to 19 yards downfield. I had an average arm. I knew it and the coaches knew it. So I worked out in the off-season with weights and the receivers. I added about 10-15 yards of distance and increased my velocity.

"Against Eisenhower, receivers would be open, but I'd throw rainbows and the defensive backs would be there by the time the ball arrived. It was like a joke."

But no one is laughing at Flynn this year. He has thrown for 2,070 yards and 21 touchdowns, completed 67.1% of his passes with only three interceptions, and he has given defenses more to think about than simply Trampush and tailback Steve Bodnar (1,352 yards, 22 touchdowns).

"We're hard to stop this year because we can do so much," Trampush said. "A perfect example is against (Capistrano Valley): Steve and I only rushed for about 70 yards, but John threw three touchdown passes and we still won, 31-3."

Because of his team's offensive diversity, Rollinson said he is more confident entering the playoffs than he was last year.

"We're a little more difficult to prepare for, especially offensively," he said. "Sooner or later, one of our weapons is going to hurt you. I like the balance we have between running and passing. And our defense is playing a lot better than it did last year. They've improved every week."

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