Prep Classic: Mater Dei defense dominates St. John Bosco

Mater Dei wide receiver Kayden Dixon-Wyatt, right, makes a touchdown catch in front of St. John Bosco cornerback Frankie Edwards III in the CIF-SS Division 1 championship football game the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Friday, November 24, 2023.
Mater Dei wide receiver Kayden Dixon-Wyatt, right, makes a touchdown catch in front of St. John Bosco cornerback Frankie Edwards III in the CIF-SS Division 1 championship football game the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Friday, November 24, 2023.

The latest chapter of a southern California prep football regional rivalry with national consecquences featured Mater Dei shutting down a prolific St. John Bosco offense, 35-7, in a Friday night lights classic D1 CIF Southern Sectional final at the iconic Los Angeles Coliseum.

The win last night (Nov. 24) was redemption for Mater Dei, whose only loss in regular season was to SJB, 28-0. 

This was the first section final played at the Coliseum since 1997, with almost 12,000 in attendance and thousands more watching a well-produced, national broadcast on the NHFS Network . They saw Mater Dei weild a thieving defense and a great performance by Stanford-bound quarterback Elijah Brown to win its 13th section title.

This game showcased the top 2 prep teams in the nation according to rankings by High School Football America --  No. 1 St. John Bosco and No. 2 Mater Dei. The two rosters have a combined total of 70 players committed to specific colleges over the next three years. The reason these teams are a hunting ground for college recruiters is one of them has prevailed as the HSFA National Champion for five of the last six years.

In winning its first sectional title since 2021, Mater Dei is expected to advance to the CIF State Open Division final against Serra of San Mateo (12-0) Dec. 8 or 9 in Southern California.

For Mater Dei, linebacker Abduall Sanders and cornerback Zabien Brown each returned interceptions for touchdowns and Elijah Brown threw two touchdowns as the Monarchs (12-1) suppressed an offense that had scored more than 460 points this season.

The Oct. 13 loss was Mater Dei’s its first against the Braves since it was edged, 24-22 in the 2022 Division 1 final at the Rose Bowl. That night in Pasadena marked the final game of Hall of Fame coach Bruce Rollinson and stirred Mater Dei’s quest for redemption.

“It feels great,” Elijah Brown said of the victory, which came under first-year coach Frank McManus. “A lot of hard work, just going day out, day in, and it was just really a team effort.”

The Monarchs’ defense made two sacks against to cool off red-hot quarterback Caleb Sanchez, who tossed six TDs in a 43-42 semifinal win against Centennial Corona. Defensive end Zeus Venegas and linebacker Shaun Scott shared one sack while linebacker Ramere Davis made one on his own.

“The defense showed up, showed out,” Elijah Brown said.

Mater Dei’s defensive line was especially disruptive with Venegas, Topui and Semi Taulanga. Linebacker Tanner Williams and Scott each added two tackles for a loss for while defensive back Daryus Dixson and Venegas had 1.5 apiece.

“They were just too overwhelming defensively,” St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said of the Monarchs. “We didn’t run the ball at all. It seemed like they were in the backfield the entire night.”

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