Mater Dei receiver Nikolas Little breaks a tackle on his way to the end zone… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
What an unforgettable night of Pac-5 Division quarterfinal playoff thrillers.
Long Beach Poly, the team that was embarrassed by Harbor City Narbonne, 56-0, two months ago, rose from the dead to upset No. 2-seeded Mission Viejo, 21-16.
Top-seeded Ventura St. Bonaventure gave up a tying touchdown with 25 seconds left in regulation, then prevailed in overtime, 27-21, over Santa Margarita.
No. 3-seeded Bellflower St. John Bosco rallied for a 24-17 victory over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.
Then, in the best game of an amazing Friday night, Santa Ana Mater Dei survived six lead changes to hold off Mission Hills Alemany, 53-42. Mater Dei will play St. Bonaventure and St. John Bosco will face Long Beach Poly in next week's semifinals.
Alemany fell behind, 14-0. Then the Warriors unleashed their trio of talented receivers. Steven Mitchell had a 63-yard touchdown catch. Devin Ross had a 20-yard touchdown catch. Desean Holmes had a 28-yard touchdown catch. Quarterback Devon Dunn passed for four touchdowns and had three passes intercepted.
Alemany's offense was matched by Mater Dei's duo of quarterback Chase Forrest and receiver Thomas Duarte.
Forrest passed for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Duarte scored touchdowns on catches of 54 and 28 yards and finished with five receptions for 138 yards.
Alemany seemingly put the game away with 7:10 left on Holmes' touchdown catch in the right corner of the end zone, giving the Warriors a 42-31 lead.
But back came Mater Dei, and Ben Humphreys caught a 49-yard touchdown from Forrest with 5:47 left. Then JC Genova ran in the two-point conversion, cutting the Warriors' lead to 42-39.
Mater Dei got the ball back on the Alemany 47-yard line with 4:50 left. Genova scored on a three-yard run with 2:29 left for a 46-42 lead.
Alemany tried to put together a final drive, but a Dunn pass to Ross went off his hands and was intercepted by Humphreys and returned 34 yards to the Alemany 10-yard line. Genova scored his third touchdown from seven yards with 1:35 left to clinch the victory.
The first half featured a duel between two big-time college prospects, USC-bound Mitchell and Mater Dei's 6-foot-3, 225-pound Duarte.
Mitchell had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to rally the Warriors. He turned on the speed and left everyone far behind for his 63-yard touchdown on a short pass reception.
Duarte made a leaping catch, then broke a tackle and ended up with a 54-yard touchdown at the end of the first half to give Mater Dei a 23-21 halftime lead.
Mater Dei's defense had five sacks of Dunn.
Brandon Boyd had an interception for Alemany to stop a Mater Dei drive. And a fumble by Forrest set up a 26-yard touchdown reception by Alemany's DeShone Randall.