How will this Bishop Amat High School football team be remembered, now that James Free's desperation downfield lob to Daylon McCutcheon was high enough but not nearly long enough, nestling instead in the arms of Mater Dei safety Pete Campbell 27 seconds before the final gun?
How does "No. 1 In The Nation, No. 3 In Orange County" sound?
For the second time in four seasons, Mater Dei has turned USA Today's national high school football rankings into a joke.
Remember Eisenhower and the Battle of Little Big A in the winter of '91? Ike was undefeated, No. 1 from coast to coast, on top of the prep world in the eyes of our favorite color-coded airline read--and Mater Dei upsets the mighty Eagles, 35-14, in the Division I final at Anaheim Stadium.
Saturday night, it was \o7 deja vu\f7 all over again. Redundancy at its finest, at least in the view of the screaming red boosters in the eastside Anaheim Stadium stands.
Mater Dei scored the first touchdown of the game, took a 21-10 lead into the dressing room at halftime, increased that advantage to 28-10 in the third quarter and was still sitting on that 18-point lead with 10 minutes to play.
Bishop Amat's one-man offense, Young McCutcheon, made it interesting with a 37-yard run for a touchdown and a 55-yard reception to set up a field goal, but the Monarchs staved off one final assault with Campbell's interception at the Mater Dei five, and that made it official.
Mater Dei 28, Bishop Amat 21.
Or, if you prefer: Mater Dei 2, Top-Rated Team In The Land 0.
"I was getting tired of playing all these No. 1 teams," Monarch Coach Bruce Rollinson quipped, "but we decided to build on that. We figured if we did it once, we could do it again."
Before Saturday's final, the top of the USA Today rankings looked like this:
1. Bishop Amat (13-0).
2. Miami Southridge (13-0).
3. Westlake Austin, Tex. (14-0)
Mater Dei was also 13-0, but it was slotted all the way down at No. 15.
And what of Los Alamitos, whose 47-game unbeaten streak through the Division I quarterfinals broke a national record?
Well, Los Al played a sensational game last Friday at Anaheim Stadium, pushed Mater Dei to the brink of oblivion, led by 10 points with 4 1/2 minutes left . . . but, crucially, failed to master the science of the onside kick. Mater Dei squeaked by at the gun, 28-24, and the Griffins, thus toppled off their perch, were dropped entirely from the USA Today top 25.
By the evidence displayed on this field the past eight days, both Mater Dei and Los Alamitos were superior teams to Bishop Amat. Better balanced, for sure. Passing attacks? Don't get us started. Both Mater Dei's John Flynn and Los Al's Kevin Feterik passed for more than 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns in 1994. Bishop Amat's Free, in contrast, took season totals of 924 yards and eight scoring passes into the Division I final.
So what was Amat doing at No. 1?
What did the Lancers have that Mater Dei--or Los Al, for that matter--did not?
And who's to say a 13-0 team from south Florida is any better than a 13-0 team from Southern California?
County bankruptcy proceedings aren't supposed to be taken into account when these polls are compiled.
Even that old standby--scores vs. comparable opponents--didn't seem to favor Amat over Mater Dei.
Amat beat Redlands, 43-20; Mater Dei beat Redlands, 53-13.
Amat beat Loyola, 20-7; Mater Dei beat Loyola, 31-7.
Both schools also dumped Trabuco Hills--Amat by 27 points, Mater Dei by 13--but Mater Dei also went undefeated against Orange County powers Los Alamitos and Esperanza and routed Division V finalist Servite, 55-14.
Where was the Lancers' edge?
Amat had one immensely hyped (although deservedly so) tailback in McCutcheon--a 2,300-yard rusher with USC, Colorado, Nebraska, Michigan and Washington chasing him--and a flock of Division I prospects, or so the college scouts say.
And when the college scouts speak, national prep pollsters listen, because what else do they have to go on? Very few key intersectionals get played on this level.
But if Bishop Amat had one great running back, Mater Dei had two very good ones--Steve Bodnar, who netted 68 yards and a touchdown Saturday, and Joey Trampush, who added 50 yards and another touchdown.
Mater Dei also had Flynn, who threw for a highly efficient 167 yards and two touchdowns, and a defense that forced three turnovers and held the Lancers to 14 first downs.
"All I know," Rollinson said, "is that we've got some great kids. When you go 14-0 and knock off the No. 1 team in the nation . . . "
His voice trailed off, much like Bishop Amat's winning streak.
"Now we can relax and figure out what we're going to get for Christmas shopping," Rollinson said.
As for a New Year's resolution, don't believe anything you read in a national prep poll.