No. 1 Mater Dei defeats No. 3 Centennial in season opener

Santa Ana Mater Dei is considered No. 1 in California and the nation by high school football experts, but there’s a reason Corona Centennial coach Matt Logan isn’t afraid to play the Monarchs. He wants to see where his team stands, and he found out in Friday night‘s season opener that the Huskies can hang with the best.

“We’re right there,” Logan told his players afterward. “We’re right there.”

Mater Dei finally put away the Huskies with a fourth-quarter touchdown to secure a 28-14 victory before a sold-out crowd at Centennial.

To learn in Game 1 that you can survive seven sacks and still fight back is what made Logan feel excited.

“They’re unbelievable,” he said of Mater Dei’s defensive unit that was blitzing all night trying to make new Centennial quarterback Husan Longstreet uncomfortable.

Yet Centennial pulled to within 21-14 with 4:30 left when cornerback Tayten Beyer, a San Diego State commit, intercepted an Elijah Brown pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.

It was the high moment for a Huskies team that came alive in the second half after trailing 14-0.

But Mater Dei, showing its toughness and experience, didn’t give the Huskies a chance of coming all the way back. The Monarchs started handing the ball off to Jordon Davison and moved downfield, with Nate Frazier scoring on a six-yard run with 2:22 left to seal the victory. Davison rushed for 112 yards.

The big surprise in the first half was a rare ineffective passing performance from Brown, a four-year starter. Six of his first seven passes were incomplete. Receivers were open too. Accuracy has been Brown’s strength. He still came through with a fourth-down, 23-yard strike to Marcus Brown in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead. A Davison six-yard touchdown run made it 14-0 before halftime.

Mater Dei kept blitzing after Centennial failed to get any traction running the ball, and that made for a challenging first half for Longstreet. His most impressive plays came on scrambles when Mater Dei’s pressure in the middle forced him out of the pocket. The Monarchs recorded four first-half sacks, including two by junior linebacker Abduall Sanders Jr.

Logan hoped his team would be able to free Cornell Hatcher to run the ball. It finally happened in the second half, and he finished with 101 yards and a touchdown.

Mater Dei first-year coach Frank McManus said he was thrilled with his team’s defensive performance. His team did get a little tired in the second half, which he said will be taken care of with additional conditioning.

Both teams can take away plenty of additional knowledge after this early meeting of Southern Section Division 1 powers.

“We know where we’re at and we know what we can be,” Logan said.