Mater Dei receiver Thomas Duarte tries to evade Narbonne cornerback Bruce… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
It's considered a risky move to make a change at quarterback in the opening round of the football playoffs. That's what Santa Ana Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson did Friday night, starting junior Chase Forrest instead of senior Ryan McMahon.
And the 6-foot-3 Forrest responded by completing 12 of 14 passes for 168 yards and four touchdowns in a 71-10 Pac-5 Division victory over Lakewood.
"We felt the system we were using with two quarterbacks was working well, but he kept getting stronger and stronger and we decided to go with him first," Rollinson said. "I have two pretty good quarterbacks, and it's a nice problem to have. He and Ryan are very close, and we feel confident with either boy."
Forrest is a better runner than McMahon, and if his passing skills keep developing, he'll present additional challenges for opponents.
"It's something I take pride in and is an asset being a quarterback," Forrest said of his speed.
Forrest's uncle, Chris, was the volleyball coach at Palisades until switching over to Westlake Village Oaks Christian this year.
"He's always wanted me to play," Forrest said.
But football is his love. He knows what he has to do for Mater Dei: get the ball to standout receiver Thomas Duarte, who had three touchdown catches.
"I tried to get the playmakers the ball," he said.
In one of four impressive quarterfinal matchups, Mater Dei (9-2) is set to play Mission Hills Alemany (9-2) on Friday at the Santa Ana Bowl. The others are Ventura St. Bonaventure (10-1) against Santa Margarita (9-2), Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (8-3) at Bellflower St. John Bosco (7-4) and Long Beach Poly (8-3) at Mission Viejo (11-0).
"That bracket is one of the more loaded brackets — with quality teams from top to bottom — that I've seen in many years," Rollinson said. "There's some guys who can coach, there's some players. You better have everything in check or you're staying home on Thanksgiving."
Quarterback Eddie Flores of South Gate missed a month with a broken wrist, but he's finally comfortable and helped South Gate upset No. 4-seeded Verdugo Hills, 55-35, in the City Section Division II playoffs. Flores passed for three touchdowns and ran for another.
"I finally feel back in the rhythm again," Flores said.
Flores was working on his acting skills a couple weeks ago when no one knew whether he'd be back to play against rival South East. He showed up to a game with his arm in a sling, even though it was fine.
"As soon as I got out of the car, I put it on," he said.
It was all a ploy to make South East players and fans think he wasn't going to play.
In fact, he played against South East, but South Gate lost, 51-10.
"It was too tough a game for him to come back after being a month off," Casagran said. "He's back to normal now."
And preparing for his next acting role.
Top-seeded teams exit
Two No. 1 seeded teams went down to defeat in the Southern Section playoffs.
Palmdale was beaten by Atascadero, 26-7, in the Northern Division, and Fontana Summit was knocked off by Paloma Valley, 22-3.
La Canada St. Francis, which plays in the Mission League, was beaten by No. 1 Lompoc, 42-7, in a Western Division opener. St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team lost to West Hills Chaminade and Gardena Serra, said Lompoc is "legit."
Bonds was particularly impressed with 6-1, 280-pound junior defensive tackle Ainuu Taua.
"He's unbelievable," Bonds said. "He might be a better tight end as a blocker. He plows over guys."