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No. 1 Mater Dei turns back No. 2 Servite's challenge 46-37

·4 min read
Duncanville, TX - August 27: Mater Dei Monarchs quarterback Elijah Brown (12) during the game against the Duncanville Panthers during the game in Panther Stadium on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021 in Duncanville, TX. (Jerome Miron / For the LA Times)
Mat Dei quarterback Elijah Brown completed 17 of 23 passes for 247 yards in the win over Servite. (Jerome Miron/For The Times)

When the clock struck 11 p.m. Saturday at Santa Ana Stadium, the lights went out in the fourth quarter of a high school football game matching No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei against No. 2 Anaheim Servite. The crowd of 9,000 didn't panic. They responded just like they would do at a concert — waving their cellphones. It was an unforgettable moment in a game that produced many magical moments.

The lighting was restored and Mater Dei (7-0) came away with a 46-37 victory over Servite (8-1) in a game that featured so much offense that those not watching must think the defenses were bad. On the contrary, it was two teams that refused to yield, and the quality of play left people in the stands thankful they got in to a sold-out game.

"I've played in some hard games, but that was one for the ages," said Mater Dei receiver CJ Williams, who caught eight passes for 135 yards and one touchdown.

In the biggest moment of the first half, the crowd of 9,000 stood up in unison and became noisemakers on a third-and-eight play from the Servite 38 in a tie game with 2 1/2 minutes left. The Friars sent five players to rush quarterback Elijah Brown. They were all picked up by blockers, and Brown saw Williams breaking open down the middle. He fired a spiral into Williams' hands for a 36-yard gain. Then Quincy Craig scored on a two-yard touchdown run for a 24-17 Mater Dei halftime lead. It was perfect execution and showed why Mater Dei is the No. `1 team in California.

The Friars did what they needed to do to keep pace. They blocked a punt in the first quarter, enabling Jacob Manu to return it for a 33-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead. Houston Thomas ran 23 yards for a touchdown and a 17-10 lead.

But the Monarchs' defense applied increased pressure on quarterback Noah Fifita, halting the Friars' momentum with cornerback Cameron Sidney performing admirably to contain receiver Tetairoa McMillan to six catches for 51 yards. Mater Dei built a 24-17 lead at halftime. Brown was 11-of-15 passing for 143 yards. Raleek Brown rushed for 88 yards.

Servite opened the third quarter with an 80-yard drive to tie the score at 24-24 on Thomas' one-yard touchdown plunge.

Then it was all about responding, with neither team yielding. Craig, who scored four touchdowns on four carries, had a six-yard touchdown run for a 31-24 Mater Dei lead. McMillan caught a 22-yard touchdown to tie the score 31-31. Craig followed with a five-yard touchdown run and the Monarchs ended up with a two-point conversion when holder Ryan Di Dodo yelled "fire" after dropping the snap and passed the ball to Malaki Te'o. Di Dodo broke his wrist on the play.

Leading 39-31, Mater Dei thought it had a cushion, but back came the Friars. McMillan, who finished with 15 receptions for 163 yards, then caught a 17-yard touchdown pass with 10:18 left, cutting the Friars' deficit to 39-37. Then the Monarchs answered when Raleek Brown scored on a 22-yard run with 7:49 left. He finished with 163 yards rushing.

"I will never forget this game," Sidney said.

Elijah Brown completed 17 of 23 passes for 247 yards. Fifita was 26 of 41 for 306 yards.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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