Mater Dei (California), more than an offensive juggernaut

Bruce RollinsonBruce Rollinson is in his 31st season as Mater Dei's head coach

As we stated in Wednesday’s preview for Friday night’s game between #3 Mater Dei (7-0, 2-0 Trinity League) and #6 St. John Bosco (6-1, 2-0 Trinity League) at Cerritos College in Southern California, both teams have high-powered offenses with Mater Dei averaging over 56 points a game and Bosco averaging more than 45 points per contest.  What sometimes gets overlooked when talking about these two is how good they are on defense.

Related: St. John Bosco riding 23-game Trinity League win streak

Mater Dei enters the Trinity League showdown having only allowed 49 points through its first seven games with three shutouts.

“The beauty is they play together,” said longtime Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson, who treats his defense to a steak dinner for shutouts.  “We try to keep our defense simple, so they can run and hit.”

Related: Listen to both coaches discuss the big game on the High School Football America Radio Show

Rollinson said he’s very pleased with the balance of his defense, especially after three-star linebacker prospect Fa’avae Fa’avae went-down with an ACL injury during fall camp.  Even with Fa’avae out for the year, the Monarch linebackers are leading the way on the stat sheet with senior linebacker Jackson McCleery being the team’s leading tackler with 36, twenty of which have been solo tackles with 6.5 tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks.  Junior linebacker Jack Genova has recorded 32 tackles, with 21 being solo.  Senior linebacker Sal Aguilar is third on the team in tackles with 31, 6.5 of which have been for losses and two-and-a-half sacks.

“We knew that Sal (Aguilar) could be a role player, but when we lost Fa’avae Fa’avae in camp, this kid (Sal) has played lights-out,” said Rollinson.

Senior linebacker Roman Kafenentzis has added 14 solo tackles with, two sacks and four passes deflected.

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Related: Latest High School Football America California Top 25

Related: Latest High School Football America Southern California Top 25

Upfront, Mater is led by senior nose tackle Austin Faoliu is called “cat quick” by Rollinson.  The secondary is led by UCLA-verbal commit Quentin Lake, who has one interception with seven pass deflections.  The other corner Jalen Cole has committed to Montana State.

“They’re going to be dealt some adversity (Friday night),” said Rollinson.  “You’re only going to be able to contain these guys (Bosco).  How do they deal with a big gain or if they break one on us? That hasn’t happened to them…they’ve had their way for seven games.  Now, you’re matched-up pretty good.”

Rollinson added, “I think they (defense) rise to the occasion.  They know the tradition of this high school…the tradition is we play great defense.”

When it comes to Bosco’s defense that giving-up a little over ten points a game, Rollinson says his offense will be challenged.

“They’re (Bosco) very well-coached,” said Rollinson.  “They have an arsenal of moves, which says somebody has spent time coaching them.  Normal high school kids might perfect one move, whether it’s an under-rip or an arm-over, or some kids can spin naturally…their Front Four does it all.  Their front seven is by far one of the best we’ve faced in years.”

Rollinson added, “My guys know that they better eat their Wheaties on Friday morning, because it’s going to be won in the trenches.”

On offense, super sophomore J.T. Daniels has more touchdown passes (40) than incompletions (38). Six different receivers have caught TD passes this season.  But, as St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro pointed-out in Wednesday’s story, the real story may be how well the Monarchs pass protect.

Related: VIDEO, Rollinson on Daniels

The offensive line is anchored by junior 6-7, 315 pound left tackle Tommy Brown, who has a list of eight offers that will grow over the next year-and-a-half.  Playing along side Brown is left guard Mason Kolinchak.  Kekaniolkoa Gonzalez (center) is in the center of it all with Christaphany Murray and Andrew Faoliu on the right side of the line that is made-up completely of juniors.

“The bigs (offensive linemen) don’t get enough attention,” said Rollinson.  “I told them on Monday that all of the media’s going to go to the skilled players, yet you’re the ones that are going to determine the outcome of this football game.”

About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.