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Mater Dei Back on Top

Prep football: Monarchs end Long Beach Poly streak to win Division I title, 33-26.

December 13, 1998|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Ana Mater Dei was the last team to defeat Long Beach Poly before the Jackrabbits started a 27-game win streak that encompassed last year's Southern Section Division I championship game.

And it was Mater Dei that ended the streak Saturday night with a 33-26 victory over Long Beach Poly in the Division I final before 19,056 at Edison Field.

Junior Matt Grootegoed rushed for 244 yards and two touchdowns in 33 carries and also made several key plays on defense for Mater Dei (13-1), which won its eighth title, its third in five years and its fourth championship in the 1990s.

"We told the kids before the game, 'Don't flinch. Don't ever doubt, and find a way to win the football game,' " Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said. "That's what we did tonight. We played 48 minutes."

Poly (13-1) was trying to become the first school to repeat as major division champion since Anaheim Servite in 1982-83, and the first public school to accomplish the feat since Huntington Beach Edison in 1979-80.

Mater Dei, however, stifled the Jackrabbits, scoring 19 unanswered points in the second quarter to turn a 12-7 deficit into a 26-12 halftime lead.

Poly running back Larry Croom rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns. But Jackrabbit quarterback Chris Lewis, the state career leader in touchdown passes, had an off night, completing only 14 of 33 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

"We got some heat on Lewis and our offensive line got after it," Rollinson said.

Mater Dei quarterback Scott Lukash completed five of eight passes for 158 yards and rushed for a touchdown. Dustin Davis, who had caught only 11 passes all season, caught four passes for 155 yards.

Lukash's two-yard scoring run with 8:23 left gave Mater Dei a 33-19 lead less than two minutes after Lewis had pulled Poly within 26-19 with a 37-yard touchdown pass play to Kareem Kelly.

Poly pulled to within 33-26 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Andre Cyrus with 1:14 remaining, but the Monarchs' Kevin Mitchell handled an on-side kick by the Jackrabbits and Mater Dei ran out the clock to preserve the victory.

Many observers wrote Mater Dei off when the Monarchs lost to Concord De La Salle, 28-21, earlier this season.

But Mater Dei defeated Fountain Valley, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Los Alamitos and Poly in the playoffs en route to the title.

"They never lost their composure," Poly defensive back Darrell Rideaux said. "They kept charging and charging and charging.

"If we have to pass on the torch to another team, I'm glad it's Mater Dei. They're a great team, a great program and they deserve it."

The Monarchs scored on their first possession when Grootegoed fumbled after a 13-yard gain and tight end Gerard Fane picked up the ball and outran Poly defenders to the end zone with 10:24 left in the first quarter.

Poly answered on the ensuing possession when Croom scored on a 10-yard run. The Jackrabbits still trailed, 7-6, after the extra-point attempt was blocked, but they didn't waste time taking the lead.

Mater Dei's Bryan New fumbled while returning the kickoff and Poly's Tranell Miller recovered at the Monarch 22. Four plays later, Croom scored on a five-yard run to put Poly ahead, 12-7.

But that was all the scoring the Jackrabbits would do in the half.

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