Let’s review matchups: No. 1 Mater Dei vs. No. 2 St. John Bosco

Let's review matchups: No. 1 Mater Dei vs. No. 2 St. John Bosco

Mano a mano is how to best describe the high school football game of the year set for Friday night at Santa Ana Stadium matching No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei (6-0) against No. 2 Bellflower St. John Bosco (6-0).

Of course, there’s a good chance these two teams will meet again on Nov. 25 in the Southern Section Division 1 final at the Rose Bowl. With the Trinity League championship on the line, don’t expect either head coach to hold back plays or players.

What’s different about this season’s first encounter is how evenly matched the teams appear. They have separated themselves from all others in Southern California. Each has a similar strength — strong defense. They have depth on both lines, speed, experienced quarterbacks and improving young running backs.

If the oddsmakers in Las Vegas were asked to pick a favorite, pick ‘em would be the betting line.

Here’s a look at the matchups.

Quarterback

Elijah Brown of Mater Dei has never lost as a high school starter, 23-0 over three seasons. He keeps improving and remains one of the coolest quarterbacks anywhere in big games. Pierce Clarkson is trying to imitate DJ Uiagalelei, who couldn’t beat Mater Dei until the Division 1 championship game his senior year. Clarkson’s running skills must be respected.

Advantage: Mater Dei

Offensive line

St. John Bosco’s blockers have made steady progress, creating opportunities for its running backs. Mater Dei’s blockers started the season more experienced and consistently come through when games are on the line.

Advantage: Mater Dei

Running back

Jordon Davison of Mater Dei has the kind of acceleration that reminds people of last season’s star, Raleek Brown, who is now at USC. Nathaniel Frazier is another developing runner. St. John Bosco’s new running backs, juniors Chauncey Sylvester and Cameron Jones, are starting to make an impact.

Advantage: Mater Dei

Receiver

This was considered a weakness for Mater Dei in the summer. Then Marcus Brown, Marcus Harris and Jordan Onovughe stepped forward. Veteran Jack Ressler has returned from an injury. Suddenly the Monarchs look fine. St. John Bosco has relied on transfers to improve the position. DeAndre Moore is the Braves’ big-play weapon.

Advantage: Mater Dei

St. John Bosco's DeAndre Moore breaks down the sideline after a reception.

St. John Bosco’s DeAndre Moore breaks into the secondary during the season opener against Allen (Texas).

(Neil Fonville / For The Times)

Defensive line

Vaka Hansen is a 295-pound immovable object in the middle for St. John Bosco and has standout Matayo Uiagalelei right next to him. Mater Dei’s defensive line takes a back seat to the Monarchs’ outstanding linebackers, but it usually finds a way to shut down running games.

Advantage: St. John Bosco

Linebacker

The linebackers are so good for both teams that they will be the key disruptors in forcing a low-scoring game. St. John Bosco’s trio of Deven Bryant, Jordan Lockhart and Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa are all headed for big-time college careers. Mater Dei’s Leviticus Su’a is a straight-A student and physical player in the middle. Nasir Wyatt has replaced David Bailey (now at Stanford) as a sack man.

Advantage: St. John Bosco

Secondary

St. John Bosco’s secondary depth is second to none in the Southland. The two safeties, Ty Lee and Peyton Woodyard, are tough to overcome, and cornerback Marcelles Williams is having a great season. Mater Dei’s young secondary has been holding its own. Sophomores Daryus Dixson and Charles McDonald have met every challenge.

Advantage: St. John Bosco

Special teams

St. John Bosco has considerably improved its punting and kicking games in the past year. Mater De has already received a game-winning field goal this season from Andre Medina. There’s plenty of speed for both teams to use for returning punts and kickoffs.

Advantage: Mater Dei

So who wins this first meeting?

Until someone figures out how to hand a first defeat to Elijah Brown, you have to go with the Monarchs. But this might be the best defense coach Jason Negro has had at St. John Bosco, and if defense wins championships, you have to go with the Braves.

So yeah, it’s a pick ‘em game. Turnovers, penalties and big plays will decide it. Mater Dei didn’t play well on Friday in a 21-13 win over San Juan Capistrano JSerra. Something tells me practice will suddenly become a lot crisper, intense and focused this week.

Some 9,000 tickets go on sale Monday morning on GoFan.co. If you can’t be there, it will be televised by Bally Sports SoCal.

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Charles writes for the Headline column of the website. He has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism. He has worked for more than 1.5 years in a media house. Now, he joined our team as a contributor for covering the latest US headlines. He is smart both by him looks and nature. He is very good with everyone in the team.