Here we go again. It will be Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 football championship game.
They played each other in the Division 1 final last season and in the season before that. From 2016 through 2019 the Division 1 championship game was a Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco game. The 2021 final was a Mater Dei-Servite game, and the pandemic forced the football playoffs to be canceled for the 2020 season that was actually a condensed season that was played in the spring of 2021.
The CIF Southern Section hosts its football “press conference” luncheon every year on the Monday of championship games week. Mater Dei and St. John Bosco coaches and players, as usual, occupied the two Division 1 tables.
The Monarchs (11-1) and Braves (11-1) play each other Friday in the Division 1 final at the Coliseum, the sixth time in the last seven playoff years the two will meet in that game.
Why do these two teams keep playing each other in the Division 1 final?
Mater Dei senior safety Jelani Davis said he and others choose Mater Dei or St. John Bosco for the types of challenges they take on, like playing in a Mater Dei-St. John Bosco game.
“The dudes who go to Mater Dei and Bosco want to play with the best and compete with the best,” said Davis, who committed to Utah.
St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said much of that comes from how Mater Dei and Bosco challenge each other.
“When we seem to get better they find a way to get better themselves,” said Negro, a St. John Bosco alum who is in his 14th season as the Braves’ coach after coaching at Trabuco Hills. “People are going to have to continue to catch up with with what we’re doing and I’m certainly not going to apologize for it because I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. We couldn’t have done it without somebody like Mater Dei trying to make us better.”
Mater Dei coach Frank McManus said, “It’s the same idea. Good talent, good resources, good structure and we both get guys off to college. Both schools have a commitment to their football programs that help them function at a high level year in and year out.”
“It’s just the level of culture of preparation,” said St. John Bosco senior linebacker Jordan Lockhart who committed to Texas A&M. “It all starts with the coaching staff. We have a real college-level of coaching. When they put that knowledge into high school football it creates a lot of separation between us and the other schools.”
In most of the seasons in which Mater Dei and St. John Bosco played each other in the playoffs, one team won their Trinity League regular-season game and the other team won in the playoffs. St. John Bosco beat Mater Dei in a league game last month 28-0.
“It’s almost like we feel each other out the first time through,” said McManus, in his first season as Monarchs head coach after serving as an assistant coach the seven previous years. “And it’s the usual thing, that it’s hard to beat a good team twice.”
Servite (8-5) plays Mission Viejo (10-3) in the Division 2 final on Saturday at Mission Viejo High. (The game will not be moved to a different venue.) Servite has a long tradition of being hyper-aggressive on defense. “We try to have all 11 black jerseys swarm to the ball,” said Friars senior safety Beau Jako. “It’s been a Servite tradition for a long time.”
Mission Viejo senior linebacker Jack Matranga said the Diablos’ special teams has been a large reason for the team’s success. “Special teams is one-third of the game, which is what we preach at Mission,” Matranga said. “We take if very seriously and it’s helped us out a lot this year.”
Corona del Mar finished fourth in the six-team Sunset League, qualified for the playoffs as an at-large team and has advanced to the Division 4 championship game. The Sea Kings (8-5) will play La Serna (10-3) at California High in Whittier on Friday.
Corona del Mar senior linebacker Christian Brooks said playing in the league in which all six members qualified for the playoffs and playing a nonleague schedule that included all five opponents that also made the playoffs got the Sea Kings ready for the playoffs. “We played great teams like San Clemente and Palos Verdes (in nonleague games) and we play Edison and Newport Harbor every year,” Brooks said, “and that prepared us for this playoff run and and the challenges to come.”
Sometimes there is one game that gives a team confidence that it will have a special season. El Dorado senior running back Isaiah Quintero said the Golden Hawks’ 41-19 win over Foothill on Oct. 5 was that game for them before they entered the playoffs and advanced to the Division 7 final. El Dorado (8-5) plays Mayfair (10-3) on Saturday at Valencia High. “That boosted our confidence a lot and really proved to ourselves that we’re a winning team,” Quintero said.