St. Bonaventure receiver Nicholas Rodriguez tries to tackle Mater Dei… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)
A Pac-5 Division semifinal that started in thick fog at Ventura High ended Friday night with Santa Ana Mater Dei sending a clear message that its football program is back and better than ever after a 21-0 victory over Ventura St. Bonaventure.
Interceptions in the second half by Thomas Duarte and Treavon Coley, precision passing by junior quarterback Chase Forrest and exceptional tackling by Mater Dei's linebackers enabled the Monarchs (11-2) to earn a spot in next Saturday's Pac-5 final at Angel Stadium against Long Beach Poly just one season after failing to make the playoffs.
Coach Bruce Rollinson, in his 24th season, remembers hearing talk that he was all washed up and the magic was gone. The way the Monarchs have been playing, they just might be the favorites to win it all. It was the first time top-seeded St. Bonaventure (11-2) has been shut out since 1994.
"We were rockin' on D," Rollinson said. "We were laying the hammer."
In particular, Mater Dei's focus was on Arizona-bound running back Zachary Green, who was limited to 88 yards. Seraphs quarterback Ricky Town was sacked five times and ended up completing 10 of 20 passes for 45 yards.
"Fly to the football and be violent," was the message Rollinson preached all week to his defensive players.
"We just tried to stop 34," Duarte said. "Zach Green is a tremendous back. He's the best back we've seen all season. It was hard to stop him at times."
Mater Dei's offense received a pair of touchdown runs from Coley in the second half on runs of two and 36 yards to break the game open.
Poised throughout was Forrest, who has risen in the playoffs and accomplished something former Monarchs quarterback greats Matt Barkley and Max Wittek never did — get the team into the Pac-5 championship game. He didn't make his first start until the playoff opener, and what a player he's become.
Call it moxie, call it grit, call it fearlessness — Forrest has been leading the Monarchs' march in November. He completed 13 of 14 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown, a 20-yard strike to Jonathan Lockett at the end of the first half that gave Mater Dei a 7-0 halftime lead. On a 90-yard drive, Forrest was five for five.
"I can't explain it," Forrest said of his playoff success. "It's just what we do."
Mater Dei's defense has been improving each week with the help of a mixture of veterans and young players.
Linebackers JC Genova and Grant Moore continued their solid play. Lockett was exceptional in the secondary. And so was sophomore Ben Humphreys.
"I'm excited for the kids," Rollinson said.