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Servite finally has its Dei


On the day Troy Thomas was hired as football coach at Anaheim Servite five years ago, one question kept being repeated as he walked around campus: "Are you going to beat Mater Dei?"

"Even the cafeteria lady asked," Thomas said. "It is very important to the Servite community."

So understand the pressure on Thomas and his Servite players Friday night as the Friars faced Mater Dei at a sold-out Santa Ana Stadium having not beaten the Monarchs since 1988, with seemingly every Servite alumnus fed up with trying to explain an 0-19-1 record against their Catholic school rivals dating to the days of President Reagan.

Well, the streak is over, and senior quarterback Cody Fajardo can take a bow.

Maybe it was the earphones he wore before the game that blocked out a loud video featuring Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson exhorting players with one of his rousing speeches. Enough of the psychological games.

Fajardo was fearless from start to finish in helping his teammates overcome 20 years of mental and physical anguish to defeat the Monarchs, 30-20, in an emotional Trinity League contest.

Fajardo had a game to remember.

He completed 10 of 12 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 141 yards in 12 carries and scored one touchdown.

Throughout, he was the most poised, confident player on the field.

"My linemen did a great job all night, and my receivers were catching everything," Fajardo said. "It wasn't all me."

Don't discount his impact for one minute. This was Fajardo at his best, with a little help from receivers Rudy Guerrero and Christopher Nicholls and some powerful blockers.

Fajardo guided the Friars (6-1, 2-0) to touchdowns on their first three possessions. He ran 36 yards for a touchdown, slipped a tackle to pass 10 yards to Troy Niklas for a touchdown and ran 46 yards to set up a four-yard touchdown run by Jody Thomas.

The Monarchs (3-4, 0-2) could not contain Fajardo's ability to improvise out of shotgun formation. He had 106 yards rushing in eight first-half carries and completed five of six passes for 71 yards for a 20-7 halftime lead.

Mater Dei didn't go down quietly, getting touchdown passes from quarterback Max Wittek of 43 yards to Victor Blackwell and 10 yards to A.J. Roth in the second half.

Wittek completed 18 of 29 for 226 yards, with two interceptions.

It was an electric atmosphere.

Fans started forming lines at the visitor and home entrances more than two hours before game time. Servite's line stretched down Civic Center Drive, and it took nearly 30 minutes once the gates opened for it to dissipate.

Thomas, wearing a long-sleeve dress shirt and tie, was jumping up and down with bagpipes playing as he led his team onto the field. Rollinson, in shirt and tie, responded in kind, firing up his players in their pregame ritual.

Servite fans, dressed in black, repeatedly stood during the game and made lots of noise. Mater Dei fans were doing their best to inspire a comeback, but the energy belonged to Servite.

What a season it has been. Lakewood ended Long Beach Poly's 80-game Moore League winning streak, and now Servite brings to a halt an 0-19-1 drought to Mater Dei.

And there are still three weeks left in the regular season.


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