St. John Bosco running back Sean McGrew scores the first of his two touchdowns… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Championship teams find a way to succeed when things aren't going smoothly. Top-ranked Bellflower St. John Bosco had a fumble inside the 10-yard line, an interception in the end zone and a bad snap over the head of its punter in the first half Friday night against Santa Ana Mater Dei.
And yet, the unbeaten Braves held a 14-2 halftime lead on the strength of Sean McGrew's 49-yard touchdown run and 33-yard touchdown catch.
In the second half, St. John Bosco kept rolling and clinched its second consecutive Trinity League championship with a suffocating defensive performance in a 24-2 victory over the Monarchs (7-2, 2-2).
The Braves (9-0, 4-0) can thank Coach Jason Negro for the transformation of a program that's blowing through the Trinity League. He was hired after the 2009 season, and now top players fill the roster. The Braves have added lots of discipline, as indicated by the fact they had one penalty the entire game.
"To win two in a row is special," said Negro, a St. John Bosco grad.
The defense was in total attack mode. USC-bound Malik Dorton kept pressuring Mater Dei quarterback Chase Forrest, who was 14 for 29 for 140 yards with one pass intercepted. The Braves' secondary and linebackers wouldn't budge.
McGrew led the offense with 132 yards rushing in 18 carries. Jaleel Wadood had a five-yard touchdown run and finished with 71 yards rushing in four carries while also leading the secondary at safety.
"We think we're good but we're not great yet," Wadood said.
If anyone wanted a reminder how much high school football has changed, they only needed to experience the college-like atmosphere at St. John Bosco.
The field was painted with a blue and white SJB logo at the 50-yard line. There was a DJ playing hip-hop music. There were security checks, TV cameras, food trucks and bleachers set up in both end zones for a crowd of more than 6,000.
Scout.com and Rivals.com were out en force trying to learn player college options.
A week ago, Mater Dei was upset by Santa Margarita, 16-7. On Friday, Santa Margarita was routed by Orange Lutheran, 54-14. And Mater Dei held a 2-0 lead until McGrew broke loose on his long touchdown run with 5:19 left in the second quarter.
"I thought we went toe to toe pretty good," said Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson.
But the fact is over the last two seasons, St. John Bosco has lost only once on the field — to Long Beach Poly in last year's Pac-5 semifinals. The Braves are headed for a No. 1 seeding in this year's playoffs if they get past Anaheim Servite in a regular-season finale.