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Slow-Starting Monarchs Get Going to Beat Banning


If this was the letdown game, Mater Dei will take it.

Coming off emotional games in three of the first four weeks, the Monarchs took awhile to get going against a gritty Wilmington Banning squad Friday night at Gardena High but still came away with a 30-0 victory.

Mater Dei (4-1) had defeated Fallbrook, one of the top-ranked teams in San Diego County, in Week 1, lost a heartbreaker to national power Concord de La Salle in Week 3 and defeated Edison, then ranked No. 3 in Orange County, last week.

So it was no surprise to Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson that Banning (1-4) gave the Monarchs fits for much of the first half.

"Whoever we play is going to play their best against us," Rollinson said. "I admire their spunk. We had to play three very emotional football games and I expected a little bit of a letdown, but I like the fact that we maintained our composure."

The Pilots, one of the storied programs in the Los Angeles City Section, used a quick-hitting rushing attack led by Sal Guerrero, who carried 24 times for 112 yards.

They went 66 yards to the Monarch 14-yard line on their first possession, but came away empty when a 30-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked and missed.

Trailing only 14-0 at halftime and still entertaining thoughts of an upset against a Southern Section power, Banning drove to the Mater Dei 34 on its first drive of the second half.

But the Monarchs forced an incomplete pass on fourth down, took over and drove 66 yards in 10 plays. Quarterback Matt Leinart found Jeff Diulio on a nine-yard slant for a drive-capping touchdown that gave Mater Dei a 21-0 lead with 4:39 left in the third quarter.

The score silenced what had been a very vocal Banning sideline and took away any hope the Pilots had. Banning managed only eight yards in its next two possessions, and fumbled the snap on a punt attempt out of the end zone for a safety.

"They drove on us a little, but we came right back and answered with points," Rollinson said. "That really sealed the game right there."

Leinart, who completed 16 of 22 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, survived a menacing Banning defense that blitzed almost every play. He said it was a credit to the offensive line that despite the constant blitzing, he was not sacked.

"We were a little sloppy," he said. "We really didn't know what to expect coming in here."

Leinart connected with Diulio 10 times for 70 yards. Mater Dei running back Camron Carmona rushed 13 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

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