Mater Dei buzzsaw slices through Centennial defense

Mater Dei (Calif.) senior wide receiver Kody Epps, left, sprints to the end zone ahead of Centennial defensive back Jaydin Young (3) on a 43-yard touchdown reception during the second half of their football game on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (Ralph Freso/For West Valley Preps]

Mark Carlisle
West Valley Preps

After cutting Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei’s lead to 34-21 with three minutes left in the first half, Centennial looked like it might give the two-time defending MaxPreps national champion a challenge. Instead, Mater Dei ran away with the game from that point on, scoring 47 unanswered points to defeat the Coyotes 71-21 Friday night at Centennial in Peoria.

Centennial (1-1) has knocked off other national powers, beating Bishop Gorman of Nevada and St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida the past two seasons. Friday’s game was another chance to put one of Arizona’s best, the two-time defending 5A state champions, against one of the nation’s top teams. This time Centennial was no match.

“I say that we learn from it and erase it from our minds, because that’s not our goal, to beat Mater Dei,” said Centennial coach Richard Taylor. “It was good. I guarantee you we became a better team tonight. And when we watch the film, we’re going to find some guys that really played their hearts out, and we’re going to build things around them.”

The Coyotes had no answer for Monarch senior quarterback Bryce Young, who’s headed to USC next year. In Mater Dei’s (3-0) air raid offense, Young threw for 537 yards and seven touchdowns, completing 31 of 36 passes without throwing an interception.

“It really speaks to our coaching and really speaks to how we prepared for this matchup,” Young said. “It wasn’t easy. We have a lot of respect for Centennial. They did a great job. Again, the elements played a big factor. We’re not used to this heat. So, for us to stay focused, stay composed and come out with a win like we did, I’m really proud of the team.”

Centennial’s offense looked like it had come to life by the second quarter. After totaling just 19 yards on their first three possessions, Centennial found the end zone on three of their next four possessions. However, the Coyotes went quiet in the second half, totaling just 45 yards after 239 in the first half.

Centennial’s first three drives of the second half totaled just 16 yards. Sophomore running back James Scott was Centennial’s lone bright spot in the second half, running for 40 yards on 11 carries in the half. Most of that total came against Mater Dei’s second team on the game’s final drive, which resulted in a missed Centennial field goal.

On their first scoring drive, late in the first quarter, the Coyotes went 80 yards in just two plays: a 66-yard run by junior Dax Lindholm (with 8 penalty yards added to the end of the run), and an 8-yard touchdown run by senior Marc Jacob.

Centennial’s second score came on a trick play out of the Wildcat where Lindholm threw to junior Rashon Adams in the end zone from six yards out. The score was set up by a 54-yard run from senior Jaydin Young.

The Coyotes’ final score was punched in on a quarterback sneak by senior Jonathan Morris from the 1. The score was set up by Morris’ longest pass of the night, a 57-yarder to senior tight end Kaeden Miller. Morris got the defense to bite on a play fake which left Miller open downfield. Morris passed to senior tight end Brad Young for the two-point conversion.

Morris finished 5 for 18 for 71 yards with no interceptions. Miller’s one catch for 57 yards led the team in receiving yards. On the ground, Lindholm led with 70 yards on five carries, followed by Jaydin Young with 60 yards on six carries and Scott with 45 yards on 12 carries.

Three Monarch receivers topped 100 yards: senior Kody Epps had nine catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns, junior Kyron Ware-Hudson had 11 catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns and junior Cristian Dixon had three catches for 140 yards and two scores.

Taylor commended his defense’s effort against the Monarch’s high-powered air raid.

“I know there were guys out there playing their hearts out. Otherwise it would have been 100,” he said.

Junior quarterback Skye Selinsky took over for Bryce Young in the fourth quarter but was only in for one play with the running clock. He made it count though: a 60-yard touchdown pass to Dixon.

Nine of Mater Dei’s 11 drives resulted in touchdowns.

Bryce Young is a dual-threat QB but used his speed and elusiveness Friday more to buy time in the pocket than to take off and run. He totaled 27 rushing yards on six attempts, including two sacks, by Centennial juniors D.J. Williams and D.J. Gleash. Each sack was for a loss of only just one yard.

Mater Dei’s Bruce Rollinson, in his 31st year as head coach, has seen plenty of good quarterback play. He coached Heisman-winner Matt Leinart and two other USC starters in Matt Barkley and JT Daniels.

“Bryce Young is starting to edge his way up to where, you know, we could be calling him the greatest next,” Rollinson said, adding that Young audibled into a new play on at least half of Mater Dei’s snaps. “…His release is uncanny, and how he finds the weaknesses in the defense is pretty crazy stuff.”

Young gave credit to his line and receivers after the game.

Mater Dei’s punt return team contributed 9 points to the team’s total. In the first quarter sophomore Joshua Hunter blocked a punt inside the 10-yard line and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. In the second quarter, a low snap forced Centennial senior punter Brendan James to fall on the ball in the end zone for a safety.

“We didn’t help ourselves,” Taylor said. “You know, in the first half, we had two blown coverages and a bad snap in the end zone. That’s not the way you really want to start out. But this game is in the past now. We’re glad that we played them. We became a better team. We’re ready to go for next week.”

Double-pass

The Coyotes’ second touchdown was granted due to a missed call from the officials. Centennial lined upped in the Wildcat with senior slot receiver Eric Haney behind center in the shotgun. Haney tossed a small shovel pass to Lindholm, who was running a sweep to the right but then stopped to throw to the left corner of the end zone where Adams caught the ball for a touchdown.

Only one forward pass is allowed per play. Because Lindholm received the ball on a forward shovel pass, he can only pass laterally or backward. Had a penalty been called it would have negated the touchdown and been a 5-yard penalty and loss of down from where Lindholm threw the illegal pass, which would have set the Coyotes up for a fourth-and-goal from the 18.

It appeared the officials thought the short shovel pass was a handoff. Had that been the case, Lindholm’s pass would have been legal.

Up next

Centennial plays at Vail Cienega 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.

Centennial senior tight end Brad Young (13) catches a two-point conversion against Mater Dei (Calif.) during the first half of their football game on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. [Ralph Freso for West Valley Preps]


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