There’s an age-old, two-pronged sports conversation that goes like this:
“Where were you on Sept. 21, 2018?” It’s a loaded question because there is a regret-tinge response saying you wished you attended that memorable game and there are others who actually did.
Inevitably hundreds of thousands of Southern Californians will raise their right hand and proclaim they were there the night that Mater Dei, No. 2 in the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 High School Football rankings, took down the all-powerful IMG Academy, 28-24.
The trouble is only 10,000 pilgrims squeezed into the Santa Ana Bowl while others watched it on television and a live stream on the Internet. Those lucky ones will remember the Monarchs’ rally late with a savvy coach pulling the strings and a junior quarterback playing the game of his life.
Understand Mater Dei defeated IMG (Bradenton, Fla.), the nation’s top sports academy, that boasts players from 17 states and two foreign countries. When the season ends, IMG will send more than 20 seniors off to major programs. So yes, it was a big deal.
Schools like Mater Dei that represent the best of the best in Catholic education and football is what makes the CAC Top 25 presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football, the place to monitor the top programs, players and coaches. Each week there’s more stories to tell and numbers to report.
First, there’s a new kid on the block, but not necessarily an unknown.
No. 21 Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission, Kan.) returns to the CAC Top 25 after finishing last year at No. 24. The Stags are one of the top teams from the Heartland and are currently Kansas’ top-ranked team. This weekend they host a special game that is detailed below. A year ago, Miege won the Class 4A-Division I state championship and aim for a fifth straight this term.
Now that the introductions are done, let’s check out the superlative from last weekend and look ahead to the “hot spots” that will make Friday and Saturday must-see gridiron theater.
Player of the week: Quarterback Bryce Young of No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). When the game was on the line, the USC-bound junior signal-caller was at his best while accounting for all four of his team’s touchdowns. We wouldn’t have it any other way and neither would the Monarchs. Trailing by three points late in the fourth quarter against nationally ranked IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), Young scored on a six-yard keeper, capping a 75-yard, seven-play drive with 1:09 left in Mater Dei’s thrilling 28-24 victory, halting IMG’s gaudy 39-game win streak.
Young was particularly impressive on the game-winning march, clicking on 6 of 6 passes that ultimately climaxed with his TD run much to the delight of 10,000 fans that jammed into the Santa Ana Bowl. Young finished 21 of 30 for 309 yards and three TDs (from 12, 21 and 44 yards) and a two-point conversion against one of the nation’s top schoolboy defenses.
In five games, the 6-feet, 185-pound Young has thrown for 1,236 yards and 15 TDs and three INTs on 71-of-93 (.763) efficiency. He’s also carried 17 times for 135 yards (nearly 8 yards per attempt) and three scores. Young’s legend is already in full bloom.
Coach of the week: Bruce Rollinson of No. 2 Mater Dei. Last weekend the master was at work, reaching deep into his bag of coaching tricks to help secure a 28-24 win over nationally ranked IMG Academy of Florida. Rollinson attributed his team’s resolve and conditioning as major contributing factors in the victory, which is likely the last over IMG as that will be their final meeting against California schools.
Starting with the 2019-20 school year, California Interscholastic Federation schools are banned from playing schools that do not compete in their state postseason. That means IMG is off Mater Dei’s future schedules. So last weekend’s game proved to be an instant classic and Rollinson summoning his inner savoir-faire.
Rollinson called three trick plays, including one that produced 44-yard TD pass. On the play, a handoff and two pitches baffled IMG allowing the receiver to get wide open for the score and a 12-7 lead. Rollinson used more chicanery on the ensuing two-point conversion, dusting off a play called “Swordsmen Special” that made it 14-7 early in the third quarter.
Known as “Rollo” the coach is a 1967 graduate of Mater Dei and went on to play wide receiver and defensive back for the Hall of Fame coach John McKay at Southern California, where he earned a BS in Business Administration. He’s been at his alma mater since 1976. In his 29th year at the helm of the Monarchs, Rollinson is 281-81-2 overall with three national champions, including last season’s CAC Top 25 top ranking, and two state titles.
Rollinson is a throwback to an era when coaches wore a shirt and tie on the sidelines. Coaches dressed that way because the men who coached them did so and treated their profession with respect and an afternoon on the sidelines was their office. Simply put, “business as usual.”
An excerpt from his coaching bio shares his vision and passion: “High school and football not only serve as learning experiences and opportunities to improve, they should also create enjoyable and memorable moments for each athlete. Coach is proud of each young man who plays for Mater Dei. He is also proud of his coaching staff, which is dedicated, not only to the football program, but also to the academic achievements of the players.”
Games of the Week (All times are Eastern): As we span the country, these half-dozen contests go from the East Coast to Midwest to the Dallas Metroplex. There is an intersectional matchup, border battle, statewide showdown and games involving local rivalries. The CAC Top 25 rankings will have a new look when the results are known.
La Salle College (Wyndmoor, Pa.) at No. 9 St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia), Friday, 7:30 p.m.: It doesn’t get any better when the Philadelphia Catholic League Red Division kicks off with a rivalry to be played at Widener University in nearby Chester. Prep is 2-0 while La Salle (1-3) has struggled. Both teams will be rested following their bye weeks.
Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) vs. St. Xavier (Louisville), Friday, 8 p.m.: This is the game referred kiddingly as the “Vatican Bowl.” Yes, this is an annual donnybrook between Louisville’s all-male schools and only a venue such as University of Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium can house the madness and pageantry. Trinity (1-5) leads the series 45-37-2 and has won 14 of the last 15. St. Xavier is 3-2.
Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.) at No. 21 Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission, Kan.), Friday, 8 p.m.: Here’s a border war, pitting schools that are located in contiguous states and only 6.6 miles or about 15 minutes apart. A sellout is expected at Dixon Doll Stadium. Miege (4-0), Kansas’ top-ranked team, has won eight overall state titles, including the last four in Class 4A, Division 1. Rockhurst, coached by the legendary Tony Severino, is 4-1 having won four straight and No. 6 in Missouri Class 6.
No. 20 St. Pius X (Houston, Texas) at Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano), Friday, 8 p.m.: This is a rematch of last year’s TAPPS Division 1 state final, which Prestonwood won, 42-41. Both teams enter the contest at 4-0. St. Pius X QB Grant Gunnell, an Arizona recruit, has thrown for 1,682 yards and 19 TDs and rushed for five more scores. Trenton Waggoner is one of his favorite targets with 22 receptions for 371 yards (16.9 per catch) and six TDs.
DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) at No. 12 St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City), Saturday, 12 p.m.: New Jersey’s power league, Super Football Conference, continues to crank out the top games on East Coast and this weekend is no exception. Both teams are 3-1. Last year, St. Peter’s survived a 22-21 decision when the Spartans missed a short field goal at the gun.
No. 3 St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) at No. 19 Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.), Saturday, 2 p.m.: This week’s lone matchup of undefeated CAC Top 25 teams pits Lasallian schools located in two major cities. CBC (5-0) features pro-style QB Brett Gabbert (1,256 passing yards, 16 TDs), a Miami of Ohio pledge, and RB Bryan Bradford, who has rushed for 744 yards and 13 TDs on 70 carries. (Note: Brett’s older brother, Blaine, plays for the Tennessee Titans). St. John’s loves to chuck it too and has played a challenging schedule that includes wins over ranked teams Marietta (Ga.) and Central (Miami, Fla.).
After more than a month of competitive games, tremendous individual efforts and coaching marvels, the CAC Top 25 rankings press forward. The national Catholic high school football scene is based on tradition and excellence. That’s what we pride ourselves each week.
Fans, coaches, players and parents are encouraged to follow the CAC Top 25 through social media at www.Facebook.com/CACTop25 and on Twitter @CACTop25. The CAC Top 25 rankings will return on Oct. 3. If you want to nominate a player or coach for CAC recognition get us the information no later than each Monday morning during the season by 11 a.m. ET.
God Bless and get out to a game in your area. In some states, the regular season is down to three games with postseasons launching by the end of the month. Continue praying for those affected by the hurricane, they have a long road to recovery. – Christopher Lawlor
2018 Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25, September 26, 2018
1. St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif. (5-0)
Previous rank: 1.
In the Huddle: Idle. The Braves are rested up and ready to run the table, but that won’t be easy in the Trinity League and CIF-Southern Section Open Division. That quest reboots Friday with No. 15 JSerra (San Juan Capistrano).
2. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (4-1) #
Previous rank: 2.
In the Huddle: The Monarchs recorded on the biggest regular season wins in program history, beating nationally ranked IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), 28-24. QB Bryce Young passed for 309 yards and three TDs and scored the game-winner on a six-yard run in the fourth quarter. The Monarchs will open the Trinity league campaign Friday at Servite (Anaheim).
3. St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (4-0)
Previous rank: 4.
In the Huddle: The Cadets showed resiliency during a 21-14 come-from-behind win over Marietta (Ga.). QB Sol-Jay Maiava’s 1-yard TD run broke a 14-14 tie in the fourth quarter as the Cadets scored the game’s final 21 points. Maiava threw TD pass to WR Rakim Jarrett in the second quarter to make it 14-7. Jarrett’s 40-yard reception tied the game 14 early in the third. The Cadets have a huge test at No. 19 Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.) Saturday.
4. Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio (5-0)
Previous rank: 6.
In the Huddle: The Knights unleashed a punishing running attack that produced all five TDs in a 35-3 victory over St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron). Senior Mason Tipton (two scores) and DeaMonte Trayanum (three) accounted for end zone celebrations. The schedule resumes Friday at home with Benedictine (Cleveland).
5. De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (6-0)
Previous rank: 7.
In the Huddle: The Spartans opened an early big lead and held off Buchanan (Clovis), 31-24. James Colby return the opening kickoff to the house from 96 yards and Grant Daley grabbed a 62-yard TD strike from Dorian Hale and is was 14-0 en route to a 28-13 lead at the break. With four games left in the regular season, the Spartans have a bye and return to the field on Oct. 5 hosting Monte Vista (Danville).
6. St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (4-1)
Previous rank: 3.
In the Huddle: Lost to nationally ranked Central (Miami, Fla.), 43-27. The Raiders went up 21-14 in the third quarter but the Central Rockets uncorked a big late rally. The bye week arrives just in the nick of time, as Deerfield Beach is the next assignment on Oct. 5.
7. St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, Md. (1-0)
Previous rank: 5.
In the Huddle: In a cruel twist of fate, the Panthers had their game at Lee (Jacksonville, Fla.) canceled due to weather. It was the second time this season they have lost a game. Next up is Life Christian Academy (Chester, Va.) Friday.
8. Gonzaga, Washington, D.C. (5-0)
Previous rank: 8.
In the Huddle: The Eagles defeated Peddie School (Hightstown, N.J.). 30-20. They were up 30 -14 after three quarters and held on. The WCAC schedule begins Friday night with a crosstown visit from Archbishop Carroll (Washington).
9. St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, Pa. (2-0)
Previous rank: 9.
In the Huddle: Idle. The Hawks open league play with rivals La Salle College (Wyndmoor) on Saturday.
10. Saint Louis, Honolulu, Hawaii (5-0)
Previous rank: 10.
In the Huddle: Coach Cal Lee’s team recorded a 30-22 win over Kapolei. The Crusaders won for the 20th consecutive time as starting QB Jayden de Laura sat out with a sore shoulder. His backup, sophomore Connor Apo, threw for 135 yards, including a six-yard TD toss to Koali Nishigaya. Only three games left in the regular starting with a road game Friday at Campbell (Ewa Beach).
11. DeMatha Catholic, Hyattsville, Md. (3-1)
Previous rank: 11.
In the Huddle: Defeated Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, D.C.), 27-18, for a third straight win. The final nonconference game is Friday against Avalon (Gaithersburg) and then the bye week. The Stags open WCAC play against archrivals No. 8 Gonzaga (Washington) on Oct. 12.
12. St. Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, N.J. (3-1)
Previous rank: 12.
In the Huddle: RB Anthony Sumney put on a show in during a 35-7 win at Union City. Sumney carried 12 times for 106 yard and scored three TDs while QB Maasai Maynor, a Naval Academy pledge, completed 12 passes for 132 yards and a score. The Marauders host DePaul Catholic (Wayne) Saturday at Caven Point.
13. Bergen Catholic, Oradell, N.J. (3-1)
Previous rank: 13.
In the Huddle: TE Tyler Devera caught the game-winning 8-yard TD from Rene Nunez in the second quarter and the Crusaders nipped their archrivals Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey), 14-13, before an overflow crowd. QB Andrew Boel opened the scoring in the first quarter from the 1 but it took a one-handed interception in the final two minutes from junior S Pierson Tobia to secure the win. Two-way star E Aeneas DiCosmo left the game early with a fractured leg and is expected to be out up to six weeks.
14. Blessed Trinity, Roswell, Ga. (5-0)
Previous rank: 16.
In the Huddle: The Titans rolled up 31 points in the opening half and cruised by West Hall (Oakwood), 45-3. The one-two punch of QB Jake Smith (three TD passes) and Ohio State-bound Steele Chambers (two rushing TDs) combined for five scores. The Titans are in their bye week and won’t return until Oct. 5 at Denmark (Alpharetta).
15. JSerra Catholic, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (5-0)
Previous rank: 15.
In the Huddle: Idle. This week’s game with No. 1 St. John Bosco (Bellflower) is a potential program-changer for coach Pat Harlow’s team.
16. Covington Catholic, Park Hills, Ky. (6-0)
Previous rank: 16.
In the Huddle: Casey McGinness rushed for 194 yards and two TDs on 28 carries to beat St. Francis de Sales (Columbus, Ohio), 35-14. The win streak reached 21 games. Junior RB Daniel Felix dashed 99 yards for another score. The Colonels are off this week.
17. McGill-Toolen, Mobile, Ala. (4-1)
Previous rank: 17.
In the Huddle: Bay Cummings kicked a 47-yard FG at the gun in regulation and the Yellow Jackets prevailed in double overtime 17-10 over Mary G. Montgomery (Semmes) for their 29th straight Region 1 victory. Dallas Daffin caught the game-winning TD. Next up is Foley on Oct. 5.
18. Columbus, Miami, Fla. (4-1)
Previous rank: 20.
In the Huddle: The Explorers defeated Belen Jesuit (Miami), 21-7. In a show of unity, both teams wore helmet decals with the No. 30 to honor Ari Arteaga, a Columbus football and baseball player, who tragically died over the summer in a car accident. Next is Miami High on Thursday.
19. Christian Brothers College, St. Louis, Mo. (5-0)
Previous rank: 19.
In the Huddle: Brett Gabbert completed 21 of 32 passes for 281 yards and four TDs of 8, 28, 21 and 4 yards during a 59-14 rout of Saint Louis University High. Taylor Robinson returned an interception 15 yards in the first quarter to open the scoring but the Cadets blew it open with 17 unanswered points in the third. Next is a national matchup with No. 3 St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) Saturday.
20. St. Pius X, Houston, Texas (4-0)
Previous rank: 20.
In the Huddle: The Panthers scored 25 unanswered points in the second quarter to subdue Manor, 46-34. Manor led 13-0 in the first quarter, but a torrid rally earned a fourth straight win. The Panthers travel to Prestonwood Christian (Plano) on Friday night.
21. Bishop Miege, Shawnee Mission, Kan. (4-0)
Previous rank: Not ranked.
In the huddle: The Stags rolled to a 45-0 blanking of St. James Academy (Lenexa). The stingy defense has allowed only 14 points in the last three games. This weekend is an intrastate rivalry against Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.) at home.
22. St. Joseph Regional, Montvale, N.J. (3-1)
Previous rank: 22.
In the Huddle: The Green Knights took control from the opening kickoff and pasted Pope John XXIII (Sparta), 31-7. RB Andre Epps had a breakout game, rushing for a career-high 237 yards and three TDs (63, 15, and 78 yards) on 15 attempts. There’s no rest for the weary as the schedule takes coach Augie Hoffmann’s team to Paramus Catholic on Friday.
23. Charlotte (N.C.), Catholic (4-1)
Previous rank: 23.
In the Huddle: QB Chris Walton engineered an 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter to provide the Cougars with a 21-14 win at Monroe. Walton capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run, snapping a 14-all tie. Next up is Weddington (Matthews) on Friday.
24. Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas (1-3)
Previous rank: 24.
In the Huddle: Idle. The Gaels face Silverado (Las Vegas) in Friday.
25. Good Counsel, Olney, Md. (3-1)
Previous rank: 25.
In the Huddle: The Falcon blasted Bishop Sullivan Catholic (Virginia Beach, Va.), 55-0. The action continues this weekend at Northwest (Germantown).
Dropped out: No. 21 Chaminade-Madonna College Prep (Hollywood, Fla.).
# Includes a forfeit loss
Special Consideration: Bishop Chatard (Indianapolis, Ind.); Xavier (Cedar Rapids, Iowa); Reitz Memorial (Evansville, Ind.); St. Anthony’s (Melville, N.Y.); Chaminade-Madonna College Prep (Hollywood, Fla.); Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Bishop Dwenger (Fort Wayne, Ind.); Aquinas Institute (Rochester, N.Y.); St. Ignatius (Cleveland, Ohio); Central Catholic (Toledo, Ohio); Catholic (Baton Rouge, La.); Mount Carmel (Chicago, Ill.); Strake Jesuit (Houston, Texas); O’Dea (Seattle, Wash.); Nazareth Academy (LaGrange Park, Ill.); Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.); Brother Rice (Chicago, Ill.); St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio); Cathedral (Indianapolis, Ind.); DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.); Iona Prep (New Rochelle, N.Y.); Chaminade-Julienne (Dayton, Ohio); Xaverian Brothers (Westwood, Mass.) and Catholic Memorial (West Roxbury, Mass.).