As expected, Serra falls to Mater Dei in CIF Open state title game

MISSION VIEJO — One of the greatest teams in Central Coast Section history, a group of players led by a passionate and driven coach who knows how to motivate young men, took another shot at perfection Saturday night, another swing at the state’s top championship.

But like the past two years, Serra fell short, a second consecutive unbeaten season ending in defeat against one of Southern California’s superpowers.

This time, Mater Dei-Santa Ana took down the Padres, winning the CIF Open Division championship 35-0 at Saddleback College behind its all-star collection of major college talent. The final 11:50 was played with a running clock.

The Open title was Mater Dei’s fourth, all since 2017, and second at Serra’s expense.

A massive underdog on this stage for the third time in as many appearances, the Padres pulled out every trick in their book to keep Mater Dei out of sorts and ran down the play clock before snaps to shorten the game.

It worked, to some degree.

Serra trailed 14-0 after the first quarter and didn’t give up a third touchdown until late in the second quarter.

The Padres played with spirited aggression, which was to be expected given the fire coach Patrick Walsh breathes into his program, but they simply were overmatched by a Mater Dei team that loaded four- and five-star talent.

Mater Dei was far from perfect, penalized 10 times for 80 yards in the first half alone.

But the Monarchs caught their own break on their first possession when a roughing-the-punter infraction opened the door for a 16-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Elijah Brown, a Stanford commit, to freshman tight end Mark Bowman.

The lead stretched to 14-0 later in the quarter on a 74-yard pass down the sideline from Brown to Marcus Harris, a four-star junior. Harris caught the ball in stride and turned on the jets to reach the end zone.

Brown finished 17 of 22 for 298 yards and four touchdowns.

Serra used the Wildcat, spread five receivers to one side of the field, called a fake punt and field goal, recovered an onside kick but with minimal success.

Mater Dei scored again late in the first half on a 12-yard TD pass from Brown to Jonah Smith that made it 21-0 at the halftime break.

Last season, an undefeated Serra team that averaged 36.6 per game lost to St. John Bosco 45-0 in the state Open championship game.

The Padres averaged 43.25 points per game this season while going 12-0, which included victories over Folsom and De La Salle and West Catholic Athletic League and Central Coast Section championships.

Through three quarters against Mater Dei, Serra had 40 yards and zero points.

So the story goes.

In California during this era, two teams play at a level nobody in Northern California and very few in Southern California have reached.


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