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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Bishop Amat defeats Mater Dei in Pac-5 playoff opener

The combination of Jay Anderson, Jerry McClanahan and Rio Ruiz made major contributions in the Lancers' 28-21 victory on Friday night.

November 21, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

In this era of specialization, La Puente Bishop Amat's football team has found a way to keep its trio of future college baseball standouts happy, and their athleticism and talent are fueling a resurgent football program.

Center fielder Jay Anderson, catcher Jerry McClanahan and third baseman Rio Ruiz have temporarily put away their gloves and bats for the good of their school and the fun of football competition, and what an impact they are having.

Anderson, a running back; McClanahan, a quarterback; and Ruiz, a receiver-free safety, each made major contributions in Bishop Amat's 28-21 victory over Santa Ana Mater Dei on Friday night in a first-round game of the Pac-5 playoffs.

McClanahan, who signed with UC Irvine, fired a 40-yard touchdown pass to Ruiz with 28 seconds left to break a 21-21 deadlock. Ruiz, only a sophomore, outdueled defensive back Matthew Billeci for the ball and then waltzed into the end zone in his best home-run trot.

Ruiz, expected to take over as the quarterback next season, had eight receptions for 120 yards and made an interception on a fake punt. Anderson, a junior, scored three touchdowns and had 112 yards rushing. McClanahan completed 16 of 24 passes for 196 yards.

The victory moves Bishop Amat (10-1) into a quarterfinal game next Friday against Lakewood.

Mater Dei (6-5), loaded with a group of juniors that is going to cause big problems in 2010, rallied from a 21-14 deficit to add drama and excitement in the fourth quarter with a final drive directed by junior quarterback Max Wittek.

Taking over the ball on the 24 with 2:48 left, Wittek had a 14-yard completion to A.J. Roth and a 15-yard completion to Glen Raphael. He ran 12 yards to the one yard line before making a sneak into the end zone with 38 seconds left to seemingly send the game into overtime.

But McClanahan refused to let the game end so quickly. He got the ball on the Bishop Amat 26 and soon had the Lancers on the Mater Dei 40. He threw the ball up seemingly for Ruiz and Billeci to have a jump ball. There was contact but no flags thrown. Ruiz came away with the ball as Billeci rested helplessly on the ground.

The passing combination of Wittek and junior receiver Victor Blackwell was a sight to admire. Wittek completed 18 of 33 for 247 yards. Blackwell caught 10 passes for 135 yards.

There has to be a Mater Dei entrepreneur ready to capitalize on Blackwell. Maybe produce a T-shirt that says, "Victor Blackwell: Faster than a speeding bullet."

Whatever the plans for his senior year, understand that his combination of speed, size and leaping ability makes him an uncommon prospect.

"Certain players have the ability to take over a football game, and you want one or two nuggets like him," Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said. "You have to account for him. I don't even know how many gears he has. He's the type of kid if he touches it, he can go."

But Bishop Amat's Darien Johnson kept following Blackwell, twice breaking up passes. And it was Johnson's fumble recovery after a Blackwell catch with 20 seconds left that clinched victory.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATsondheimer

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