It would be hard to dispute that St. John Bosco had a nearly perfect season coming into the CIF-Southern Section Pac 5 championship game against Corona Centennial. That was especially true in the turnover department; the Braves had only turned the ball over four times all season.
Saturday night, the Corona Centennial defense forced three St. John Bosco turnovers in the first half, all of which were converted into points that set the tone for the Huskies as they outscored the Braves 62-52 before 13,599 fans at Angel Stadium. St. John Bosco, now 13-1, entered the game ranked No. 2 in the High School Football America Top 25, while Corona Centennial (14-0) was ranked #3.
Bosco quarterback Quentin Davis, who had only thrown two interceptions all season, was picked off twice in the first quarter. Cal commit Camryn Bynum’s pick led to a 49-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Catalano to Cameron Jackson, which gave the Huskies a lead they would never give up at 14-7 with 4:47 to go in first quarter. On Bosco’s next drive, Kentrell Love picked off Davis, which led to another Husky score as J.J. Taylor scored on a sweet 21-yard touchdown scamper to give Corona Centennial a 20-7 lead after the missed extra point.
While the Corona Centennial defense performed extremely well in the first half against the Braves, who entered the game averaging just less than 60 points a game, the Huskies’ offense was nearly perfect behind Catalano, who was 10-of-13 for 220 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Centennial scored on seven of its eight first-half possessions.
Catalano connected with four-star wide receiver Javon McKinley seven times in the first half for 132 yards and a touchdown, plus three completions to Jackson for two touchdowns.
Centennial led 55-31 at halftime as the teams set a Southern Section playoff game record with 86 points combined. The previous record was 84 points in 1994.
“This championship feels amazing,” said Catalano. “When all of us came-in as freshman four years ago, we talk about playing in four straight championships and now we have four rings and have one more to go play.”
That one more to play will be against De La Salle in two weeks in the CIF Open Division State Bowl Championship Game. It will be a rematch of last year’s championship game won by De La Salle 63-42. De La Salle, ranked No. 6 in the Super 25, won its 24th consecutive section title with a 35-0 win against Foothill (Pleasanton) on Saturday.
RELATED from USA TODAY High School Sports: De La Salle blanks Foothill to punch bowl ticket
“Last year I had one play against them that I think about every day — it was an interception when we were down a couple of scores and could have come back,” said Catalano. “I’ve been waiting for this game against De La Salle, but not for revenge, just for an opportunity to execute and beat them.”
Taylor, an Arizona commit, finished with five touchdowns on 269 yards rushing in 41 carries.
“J.J. Taylor was a beast,” said St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro, whose team played 12 of 13 games this year with a running clock. “Then you had Catalano, who does a great job of making the right reads and distributing the ball. They’re a very tough offense to try to stop.”
Corona Centennial set the tone on the fourth play of the game, when head coach Matt Logan decided to go for it on fourth-and-3 from its own 27. The Huskies converted and then needed six more plays to cap an 80-yard drive for the opening score.
“I’m so proud of all of our kids,” said Logan, whose Huskies won their 10th Southern Section championship.
A 49-yard touchdown pass from Davis to Anselem Umeh tied the game at 7-7 on Bosco’s first possession of the game, but that was as close as the Braves would get the rest of the night. The Braves were hurt by the loss of Davis to a shoulder injury late in the first half. Sophomore quarterback Re-Al Mitchell came in and performed well in trying to bring his team back from a 34-10 second quarter deficit.
Mitchell threw TD passes of 47 and 33 yards and also run for a 65-yard TD.
— #D1Bound Nation. (@SportsRecruits) December 6, 2015
Bosco tried to rally late in the game as Sean McGrew’s third touchdown of the game cut the lead to 62-52 with 3:38 remaining, but the subsequent onside kick failed. Taylor recovered. McGrew, a Washington commit, had 196 yards rushing.
“Just like last year, it was the spitting image of the same game,” said Negro, whose team lost to Corona Centennial in last year’s CIF-SS Pac 5 final 48-41. “We didn’t do a very good job in the first half and fell behind, and then we’re trying to climb out of a hole that was too big.”
Both teams combined for 1,138 yards in total offense.