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Mater Dei football dominates San Mateo Serra to claim CIF State Open Division title

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MISSION VIEJO — Mater Dei’s to-do list at the CIF State football championships appeared more manageable Saturday with the toppling of its rival already checked off.

But the Monarchs still needed to finish the job against an undefeated foe at Saddleback College.

Elijah Brown made sure Mater Dei checked its final box of the fall.

The four-year starting quarterback tossed four touchdowns as the Monarchs defeated Serra of San Mateo 35-0 in the Open Division final to clinch its fourth state title and perhaps another national title.

Outside linebacker Nasir Wyatt and defensive lineman Zeus Venegas each recorded a sack to help lead Mater Dei’s defense.

“It’s mission accomplished,” first-year Mater Dei coach Frank McManus said of the title. “This is the goal. This is the expectation that have been set for years. To be able to complete that mission is the most important thing.”

“As a coaching staff, we work hard. The players work hard,” McManus added. “I can take more a breath.”

The Monarchs (13-1) entered the final ranked No. 1 in the nation by High School Football America and third by MaxPreps and USA Today. They departed the locker room with national championship-inspired shirts.

Brown, a Stanford commit, fired three touchdown passes in the first half to help Mater Dei open a 21-0 lead.

He finished the night 17 of 22 for 298 yards and became a two-time state champion.

Brown also helped Mater Dei win the state title in 2021 with a 44-7 victory against Serra (12-1).

But Brown’s most impressive stat?

He finished his high school career with a record of 42-2 as the Monarchs’ starting quarterback.

“You can’t thank EB enough,” Wyatt said of Brown. “He got here as a freshman. He didn’t shy away from his opportunity. He stepped and filled some big shoes for four years. We owe all the love we got to EB.”

Brown credited his teammates.

“It means a lot to me but it’s a team effort,” he said. “I grew up with all these guys. Being able to be seniors at Mater Dei like this, and win at the highest level, that’s something great that can happen.”

Mater Dei set the stage for the Open final by defeating St. John Bosco 35-7 in the CIF-SS Division 1 final at the Coliseum on Nov. 24.

The Monarchs posted the victory after being shut out by the Braves 28-0 in a stunning result in the teams’ Trinity League game in mid-October.

St. John Bosco also edged the Monarchs 24-22 in the CIF-SS Division 1 final in 2022, spoiling the final game for Hall of Fame coach Bruce Rollinson.

But the Monarchs regained their swagger under McManus two weeks ago, and maintained that look against Serra.

The Padres flustered Mater Dei early by coming out in some unique offensive formations. The unbalanced and bunched alignments drew a few penalties but the Monarchs took advantage of a Serra mistake to strike first.

Brown tossed a 16-yard touchdown to freshman tight end Mark Bowman with 4:56 left in the first quarter after a roughing the punter penalty extended a Mater Dei drive.

Brown added a 74-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Marcus Harris later in the period after the Monarchs held on a trick play.

Serra lined up for a 29-yard field goal but attempted a fake. Wyatt recorded a tackle for loss on the play as the ball turned over to Mater Dei.

The Monarchs’ special teams helped extend their lead before halftime. A blocked punt by sophomore Shaun Scott led to a 12-yard touchdown from Brown to Jonah Smith with 1:14 left in the second quarter.

Mater Dei capitalized on a turnover in the third quarter to push its lead to 28-0. Running back Jordon Davison leaped in for an 8-yard touchdown run seven plays after Tomu Topui — one of the stars of the Division 1 final last month — recovered a fumble at his 42.

Brown sparked the drive with a 26-yard completion to wide out Marcus Brown to move the ball to the 8.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Mater Dei ran a flea flicker that ended with Brown’s 31-yard TD strike to Jack Ressler, who became the fourth different receiver to catch a touchdown.

Mater Dei struggled with penalties but still dominated to cap the first season for McManus, a former assistant under Rollinson.

The Monarchs often showed a united and focused approach as they played for the first time since 1988 for a coach other than Rollinson. They bonded, for example, following the death of Chuck McDonald III’s mother and maintained several of their traditions.

And on Saturday, Mater Dei improved to 4-0 in state finals.

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