Football: No. 12 Mater Dei

After reaching the semifinals in the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs, one was left with the feeling that Mater Dei had a pretty good season. It has been a while since the Monarchs have been to the finals, 2002, but they're a great program with great tradition; Southland football always benefits when Mater Dei is one of the teams to beat.

Incumbent upon success this season is getting the most out of its nonleague games. It has fewer returning starters than No. 17 Orange Lutheran and No. 13 St. John Bosco, and the Trinity League is no place to learn on the job.

Mater Dei's first three opponents — Carson, Corona Centennial and San Clemente — are all highly regarded, and the fourth game is against a solid Edison program.

"We have to come out strong and grow and gain confidence during the preseason," said coach Bruce Rollinson, whose program is 206-59-2 and has won five section titles in his two-plus decades at the helm. "The experienced players must carry us early as the young ones grow. And we've got a few young ones.

"The young players must play up to their potential, which we feel is very good, and they have to make contributions."

Here is a closer look at the Monarchs:

Team: Mater Dei

Coach: Bruce Rollinson, 22nd year

2010 Record: 8-5, lost to Mission Viejo in semifinals of the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs.

Returning starters: 10 total. Six on offense, four on defense.

Key players on offense: TE Josh Cook, RB Freddie Mora, OT Youcheng Cho, WR Thomas Duarte, WR Jameson Field.

Key players on defense: LB Ricky Ortiz, ILB Joseph Campos, ILB Anthony Topete, CB Jonathan Lockett

Difference maker: Mora showed flashes of being a terrific runner in the early going last season, then got hurt. If it turns out that he is the runner that Mater Dei needs, and can take some of the pressure off the quarterback, then the Monarchs have a fighting chance.

Newcomers: QB Ryan McMahon

Not to be missed: Servite vs. Mater Dei at Angel Stadium, Nov. 4. If everything goes right for both teams — and that’s a huge proposition — the bitter rivals could essentially be playing for the league title going into the penultimate week of Trinity League play. After beating Servite for 20 straight years, Mater Dei has lost two in a row. To win a title, it almost certainly can’t let the streak reach three.

Coach’s comment: "We can't beat ourselves so we have to be fundamentally sound and execute, and as the season goes on we can expand the package—especially on offense," Rollinson said. "Needless to say, we have to stay healthy."

Final analysis: The likelihood is that Mater Dei is as good as its quarterback. The Monarchs have had a run of good ones (Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley, Max Wittek) and if McMahon — who had been the freshman and JV starter — is as good as many think he will be, Mater Dei could be in business. But in the Trinity League and the Pac-5, it’s a tough business. He’ll have to earn everything he gets. So will the teammates around him.