Los Angeles Preps: Max Wittek

Pac-5 playoffs: Mater Dei 26, Long Beach Poly 10

November, 19, 2010

LONG BEACH – They were matched up on the field like a couple of old kings jousting for old times' sake. Long Beach Poly and Mater Dei would have been the best game in the state a decade ago. Friday night at Veterans Stadium, they had to settle for the juiciest first-round game in the Pac-5 Division of the Southern Section playoffs.

There is plenty of pride at stake between these two programs, and that's what Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson appealed to after finishing the Trinity League season with a loss to Santa Margarita and a third-place finish. They responded with a big defensive effort in a 26-10 victory over Poly, the Moore League champion and the one of the most successful programs in the state.

A decade ago they had played each other in three consecutive championship games. Poly won in 1997, Mater Dei in 1998, and they tied in 1999. As recently as 2006 they faced off in the first round – a game won by Poly, 10-0. Mater Dei leads the series, 6-5-1.

“The legacy of both high schools is amazing,” said Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek, who played a pivotal role with his feet more than his arm. “We respected them very much. I felt we came together. We made plays when we had to make plays.”

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Orange County: No. 20 Santa Margarita 17, No. 14 Mater Dei 7

November, 12, 2010
MISSION VIEJO – If anyone ever doubted Harry Welch's will, he showed it on his team's first possession Friday against Mater Dei. Facing a fourth-and-one situation at its own 39-yard line, Santa Margarita's offense went for it.

And made it.

It was a statement, a bold one en route to a 17-7 Trinity League victory that gave the resurgent Eagles second place in league. Just a season ago, Santa Margarita (8-2, 4-1) failed to win a league game for the first time in school history, and it had only one league victory the past two seasons.

And then it hired Welch, who won eight Southern Section titles and two state bowl championships with Canyon Country Canyon and St. Margaret's. His simple offense and defense proved successful against all but one team in the Southern Section's toughest league. That one team was Servite (10-0, 5-0), the defending Pac-5 and Division II Bowl champion that has won 21 in a row -- and the Eagles were within a touchdown of that team last week.

On that key fourth-and-one -- the Eagles hadn't even gotten a first down yet -- quarterback Adam Young's second effort on a sneak pushed forward enough to move the chains.

“God gave us four downs, who am I to say only use three,” Welch asked rhetorically. “He says you have four, let's go with four.”

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Orange County: No. 1 Servite 21, No. 12 Mater Dei 14

October, 29, 2010
ANAHEIM – It was a moment that came out of nowhere. Servite's struggling offense that had bogged down time after time when given opportunities to score by its defense, exploded in the second half on one brilliant play.

Malik Felton, pushed into the role of running back a week ago after an injury to Sean DeRosa, shocked Mater Dei and its fans Friday at Angel Stadium with a brilliant 87-yard run that ignited the Friars in a 21-14 Trinity League victory.

Felton finished with 23 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns, and his stunning sprint – he cut back three times times en route to the end zone – marked the beginning of the end for hopes of an upset for Mater Dei (5-3, 2-1).

There's no telling how many potential recruits Servite (8-0, 3-0) may have won over with its first back-to-back victories over their rival since winning three in a row in 1986-88 – which preceded a 20-year winless streak against the Monarchs.

This victory validated last year's victory, and it will keep the Friars in position to win a sixth consecutive league championship. They will have to beat Santa Margarita (7-1, 3-0) next week at Saddleback College. Santa Margarita defeated St. John Bosco in overtime, 42-41.

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Orange County: Servite, Mater Dei renew rivalry on the big stage

October, 29, 2010
Servite and Mater Dei renew their 50-year rivalry tonight at Angel Stadium with first place on the line in the Trinity League.

Servite is ranked No. 1 in the ESPNLA top 25, and Mater Dei is ranked No. 12. Both teams have loads of momentum. Servite (7-0, 2-0) has won 18 in a row, including last season's Pac-5 title and State Division II Bowl Championship -- as well as a 30-20 victory over the Monarchs.

That victory, in which Cody Fajardo passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, ended a 20-year winless streak for the Friars. Their best showing over the previous two decades was a 0-0 tie in 1992.

This year, Servite lacks a player with the offensive charisma of Fajardo, who is now at Nevada Reno, but the defense seems to be even better led by linebackers Matt Inman and Butch Pauu, lineman Jody Thomas and defensive backs Jordan Jones and Karlton Dennis. Servite's first unit has allowed only six touchdowns this season, and two of those were on drives of 22 yards or less.

The Friars' special teams figure to gives Servite an advantage as well. They have blocked three punts in the last two weeks, all leading to touchdowns, and with strong-legged Connor Loftus -- he has kicked a 52-yard field goal already this season -- Servite figures to have the edge.

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Orange County: No. 14 Mater Dei 28, Orange Lutheran 14

October, 22, 2010
SANTA ANA – Max Wittek put up the numbers, but the real heroes of Mater Dei's 28-14 victory over Orange Lutheran were the guys on special teams.

Three touchdowns came after long returns that set up short drives, and Mater Dei – ranked No. 14 in the ESPNLA top 25 – ended a five-game losing streak to its Trinity League nemesis. Now, if rival Servite (6-0, 1-0) can take care of business Friday against St. John Bosco (4-2, 0-1), it will set up a game next week at Angel Stadium with a share of first place at stake.

Wittek passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Monarchs (5-2, 2-0) won their fifth consecutive game. Lutheran dropped to 3-4, 0-2.

“They've had our number the past few years,” said the USC-bound quarterback. “We came in very determined. Coach instilled it in us. We heard it all week. We were confident”

Wittek completed 14 of 20 passes for 178 yards with two interceptions. But he didn't have to be perfect on a night in which three scoring drives were for 47, 45 and 34 yards courtesy of Tyler Meglan, Victor Blackwell and Glen Raphael, respectively. Meglan returned the opening kickoff 47 yards, Blackwell answered Lutheran's game-tying touchdown (a 92-yard kickoff return by Will Gonzales) with a 48-yard return, and Raphael returned a punt 34 yards.

“They did a great job of getting out of our end of the field and into their end,” Wittek said.

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Orange County & LA South: No. 14 Mater Dei 31, St. John Bosco 20

October, 15, 2010
SANTA ANA – My gosh, how good is Victor Blackwell going to be when he grows up? The Mater Dei receiver already plays like a man among boys, and that was evidenced in full bloom Thursday against St. John Bosco in the Trinity League opener.

Blackwell is already a chiseled 6-foot-1, 191-pound specimen. The USC commit scored twice in the first half of 14th-ranked Mater Dei's 31-20 victory over the Braves, but the manner in which Blackwell plays – and makes plays – continues to impress week after week.

“Too much Blackwell,” said Jason Negro, the first-year coach at Bosco whose team played a game that was much closer than the score indicated – the Braves (4-2, 0-1) led 20-17 in the fourth quarter. “He's a tremendous player. We knew that coming in and we designed some things and he still hurt us.”

Blackwell caught six passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, of 32 and 15 yards for Mater Dei (4-2, 1-0), which has won four in a row. But Blackwell was also directly responsible for all three penalties committed by Bosco – two pass interference penalties and an offside against a defensive back.

It was a classic Trinity League battle, indicative of how tough each game will be. Bosco very clearly was upset-minded.

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Mater Dei's Max Wittek embraces the pressure of legacy

October, 3, 2010

Larry Goren/Special to ESPNLA.com
Max Wittek says he makes it a point to never get too high after something good happens or too low after something bad.

SANTA ANA -- Some football players might shy away from the unenviable task of having to live up to the lofty expectations that come along with being anointed as the starting quarterback at Mater Dei High. Not Max Wittek. He has embraced the role.

The fact he’s done so without reservation is all the more impressive considering the list of his predecessors, which includes a pair of former Heisman Trophy winners, no less. Most would agree that it takes a special individual to not be overly intimidated about having his name constantly compared to such a storied past of signal callers.

Apparently, Wittek has the makeup to get the job done and doing so in each of his two years on the job thus far is a good indication of that. Not surprisingly, the quarterback tradition is currently alive and well at Mater Dei and the 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior is largely responsible for making the others who came before him proud in that respect.

“Everyone likes to compare Max to the great guys that we’ve had play here, so really, all the talk is nothing new,’’ Monarchs coach Bruce Rollinson said. “Stuff like that has been going on for years and years now and will continue happening in the future.’’

The cast of quarterback characters Rollinson refers to includes, most recently, Matt Leinart, Colt Brennan and Matt Barkley. Each made his mark while slinging the ball around for Mater Dei over the course of the last decade, or so. During the early 1990s, Billy Blanton called the plays from underneath center for a while. John Huarte started it all when he was at the helm of the Monarchs' offense back in the mid 1960s.

Huarte and Leinart ended up winning collegiate football’s most prized possession, the Heisman Trophy, in 1964 and 2004, respectively. Brennan was finalist for the honor in 2007. If Wittek needs some inspiration, he doesn’t have to look very far to find it. One glance at the illustrious list of alumni figures to serve as plenty of motivation.

“I can tell you this much, it takes a special kind of person to play quarterback for us; it’s a demanding position,’’ Rollinson said. “It’s one of those full-time job type of things. You have to be a student first, football player second and there’s not much time for anything else. It’s a total and complete commitment, always has been, always will be.

“There’s certain kids that can’t do what we ask, it’s plain and simple. They’d rather ride skateboards, go to dances or get home from school and watch Oprah Winfrey. With Max, he’s different. He has drive, the initiative, just like Leinart and Barkley did when they were around. Max has passion. He’s dedicated, a perfect fit to run our system.’’

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Orange County: Mater Dei 27, No. 15 Edison 7

October, 1, 2010
COSTA MESA – The defense, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said earlier this week, would have to carry his team this season. On Friday night, the Monarchs put their backs into it. Led by Miguel Sandoval, Joseph Schmidt and two turnovers in the first three minutes that led to quick touchdowns, Mater Dei won for the second week in a row against an ESPNLA.com top 25 opponent.

This time the Monarchs defeated No. 15 Edison, 27-7, in a nonleague contest that was never in doubt. Not after the start that the Mater Dei got.

“They're going to talk about Max Wittek and Victor Blackwell, and deservedly so, but we were rocking on defense,”Rollinson said. “The interception was huge, we had a bunch of sacks, put pressure on Chase (Favreau) the whole night -- he never got comfortable, and I commend him for going, the word is he didn't practice all week (because of a sprained ankle).

“I challenged both fronts, and I challenged the defensive line right before we came out to make something happen and they did. . . . You hold them to seven points, that's a heck of a defensive effort.”

There were two sacks, but three other plays in which Favreau -- who transferred from Mater Dei (2-2) to Edison (3-2) -- was tackled for a loss. After the interception, the defense forced a Favreau fumble that also set up a short score, and it limited the potent Edison offense to 120 yards -- 33 came on the final series as it ran out the clock.

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Orange County: Even Victor Blackwell can't do it alone for Mater Dei

October, 1, 2010

Luis Collazo
Mater Dei receiver Victor Blackwell was incredible in a win over San Clemente last week.

The magic of the three stripes returned to the Mater Dei sidelines a week ago, but if it's a command performance that fans want, it's probably going to take an even greater effort than last week by Monarchs players .

Its annual nonleague game against No. 15 Edison (3-1) tonight at Orange Coast College provides another test for Mater Dei (1-2). It took a monumental step forward last week in a 42-14 upset of previously unbeaten San Clemente in which receiver Victor Blackwell was amazing. He had six catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns, he was faster than a speeding locomotive and he was leaping ... well, just take a look at the photos above. All receivers, if not all players, who turn in description-defying performances this season should henceforth be called Blackwellian. One of the keys this week for the Monarchs is to give the USC-bound Blackwell the opportunity to earn his adjective.

Apart from getting the ball into Blackwell's hands, Mater Dei must also play with the emotion it did a week ago. It all goes back to the Corona Centennial game, a 44-13 loss. Even though Centennial could embarrass a lot of teams by such a score, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson called it “a rude wakeup call and reality check as to where our mental preparation was. I felt that mentally we weren't dialed into the game. Physically we were overmatched. If you bring some emotion and some fight – we should have represented the program better.”

So that's what Edison has to be wary of. A fired up Monarchs team that is playing for the pride of its past against a very real threat to its present. That cornered animal that San Clemente faced a week ago still has its teeth.

That doesn't mean Edison doesn't come loaded for bear. Defensive linemen Charles Burks and Robert Mase – playing against Mater Dei's work-in-progress offensive line – are a very real threat to Mater Dei QB Max Wittek, and that can impact Blackwell. The Monarchs can't be one-dimensional, either. Corbin Anderson (meniscus) is still out, so RB Josh Valdivia must still pick up the yards to keep Edison's pass rush honest.

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Orange County: Credibility is on the line for Mater Dei and San Clemente

September, 23, 2010
Back in the 1990s, Mater Dei and San Clemente were in the South Coast League together, and the Tritons were one of the last teams to score a league victory over MD during that era. But once Mater Dei was moved into a parochial league, San Clemente didn't have much to do with the private schools. Until now.

Mater Dei has been the benchmark in OC football, but this season the Monarchs have lost twice to tough opponents. Now comes a third opponent, and the proud program is looking at 0-3. Or are they?

“Even though we might be ranked ahead of Mater Dei now, Mater Dei is very dangerous,” said San Clemente coach Eric Patton. “It's like playing a cornered animal, they're desperate for a win, and they're better than their record is showing. This is not something that is a wing and a prayer for us. We look forward to having a great game with Mater Dei, and we're very respectful of what they've done.”

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Inland Empire & Orange County: No. 7 Centennial 44, Mater Dei 13

September, 17, 2010
CORONA -- For those high school football fans who haven't heard of the name Michael Eubank, consider this as a formal introduction.

Larry Goren/For ESPNLA.com
Centennial quarterback accounted for 380 yards of offense in his team's rout of Mater Dei.

The 6-foot-5 and 220-pound senior quarterback from Corona Centennial did a little bit of everything on Friday evening, most of it extremely well. And as a result, the host Huskies had little trouble thoroughly defeating Santa Ana Mater Dei, 44-13, in a nonleague game.

"My goal was to come out and make a big statement tonight in front of everyone,'' said Eubank, who completed 11-of-17 passes for 200 yards passing with a pair of touchdown passes. He also carried the ball 13 times for 180 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns.

Entering the game, Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek was thought to be the main attraction. The USC commit struggled from start to finish though and ended up 11-of-25 for 176 yards with two interceptions.

Turns out, Wittek was overshadowed by his counterpart. And keep in mind Eubank has one scholarship offer thus far, Northern Colorado. Others figure to follow suit after his performance Friday.

"I wanted to prove that I can hang with a USC boy,'' Eubank said. "When people underestimate me, it only motivates me more. I'm hungry. I hope this is an eye-opener for Division I coaches. I'm a dual-threat, I can pass it or run it, you saw that out there. I did what I had to do.''

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LA South, Orange County: It's a pay-Dei for Carson

September, 4, 2010
Two plays that culminated just 13 seconds apart played a huge role in Carson's 14-10 upset of Mater Dei Saturday at Santa Ana Stadium. Actually, it was only the second play that really mattered.

Mater Dei, ranked No. 8 to Carson's No. 21 in the ESPNLA top 25, was down by a touchdown when Glen Rapheal returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown. It tied the score and turned the momentum in favor of Mater Dei midway in the second quarter.

Or so it seemed. But Dion Willis made the play of the night for Carson when he returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score. Willis had taken the ball behind a flock of blockers then bowled up the middle as though he were headed for the lead pin. Near midfield he drifted to the right as he burst away from flailing defenders.

“One person touched me on the thigh,” said Willis, a senior who is being courted by a few Pac-10 schools. He returned one kickoff for a touchdown last season – against Banning. “I like this one way better,” he said.

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