Mater Dei Catholic are CIF Division 2-AA State Champions after defeating the Raiders of Central Catholic in a 35-24 high-scoring battle.
On Friday evening at Saddleback College, the Crusaders wrapped up their 2021 season the best way possible, claiming a state-title victory over an opponent that Mater Dei head coach John Joyner considered as "dangerous" entering this game.
"Central Catholic are very big, one of the biggest teams we’ve played," coach Joyner said. "They have a smash-mouth offense and carry themselves with a blue-collar type of identity," coach Joyner added.
The Raiders of Central Catholic outscored Mater Dei 18-14 in the last three quarters of this game, but it was Mater Dei's 20-point first quarter that made the biggest difference Friday evening.
Towards the end of the game, Central Catholic's Julian Lopez scored a 7-yard rushing touchdown with just about 5 minutes to go, followed by a clutch interception made by Raiders defensive back, Jaelen Nichols. However, the two big plays down the stretch were only enough cut the game down to single-digits, but it was too late to take the game into overtime or steal a stunning comeback victory.
Mater Dei Catholic linebackers coach Esteban Murillo gave credit to Central Catholic for their performance after the game, stating that the Raiders put up a fight from beginning to end of the game.
"Central Catholic came out and stuck to their game-plan by playing power football," Murillo said. "But our heart was on full display and ultimately we were able to pull it out," he added.
On this big night for Mater Dei Catholic, junior running-back Nico Mosely secured a hat trick by taking the ball into the endzone three times on the night, including the Crusaders' last last touchdown of the game to put the game out of reach.
Another notable name that contributed immensely Friday night was sophomore Isiah Buxton, who caught two interceptions in this game, including one he took to the house for an 88-yard touchdown return in the first quarter.
The is the second state title victory claimed by head coach John Joyner in his career, and all signs point to another possible CIF State Championship run in the future, as the Crusaders are expected to have most of their main players returning next season.