By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
LA PUENTE – Jerry McClanahan and Rio Ruiz battled all summer for the starting quarterback spot, but it was how they battled together in the final moments that sent Bishop Amat to the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Divisional playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Ruiz juggled, then hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from McClanahan with 38 seconds left, giving the Lancers a 28-21 victory over Mater Dei in front of more than 6,000 fans at Kiefer Stadium, most on the edge of their seats. To continue, click thread
The Monarchs rallied from a 14-0 and 21-14 deficit to tie the score on quarterback Matt Wittek’s one-yard touchdown run with 1:13 left that made it 21-21.
But that’s when McClanahan and Ruiz went to work.
Starting on their own 26 with 1:06 left, McLanahan threw a 19-yard pass to Ruiz, then another 15-yard pass to Ruiz again, setting up the 40-yard touchdown completion and just their second victory over Mater Dei in the playoffs, and first since 1962 — nearly half a century.
“It took a while to get those two going, but they were ready for it (the drive),” Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty said. “Sometimes the moment can bring out the worst in you, but the best wait for the moment to bring out the best in them. Jerry and Rio are incredible competitors, it was those two in the end.”
Wittek threw for 247 yards and standout junior receiver Victor Blackwell had 10 receptions for 123 yards, but it wasn’t enough as the Monarchs finished 6-5.
McLanhan had another big night, throwing for 196 yards while junior Jay Anderson rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns. But Ruiz, just a sophomore, was clutch, finishing with eight receptions for 118 yards and an interception as the Lancers improved to 9-1 and will face fourth-seed Lakewood, a 41-17 winner over Newport Harbor, on the road in the quarterfinals next week.
“I have a lot of confidence in Jerry, and he has confidence in me,” Ruiz said. “He called a fade and I fought to come down with it. It’s incredible, we’re so proud we’re moving on to the next round.”
Bishop Amat had a number of goals entering the season, and scribbled on a board as they walked out of their locker room was goal number six, practicing on Thanksgiving.
“There’s only one goal left,” Hagerty said. “That’s to win the whole thing. Again, just like other times this season our guys didn’t quit, they kept fighting. It seems like we’re saying that all the time, but that’s what they’re, a bunch of fighters.”
Mater Dei opened the second half, marching 80-yards on ten plays, finishing with Corbin Anderson’s two-yard touchdown run, and tying the game on Wittek’s two-point conversion pass to AJ Roth, making it 14-14 with 6:46 to go in the third.
Following a three-and-out, the Lancers caught a huge break when Mater Dei’s Tyler Meglan fumbled the punt, and Martin Sandoval pounced on it for the Lancers, giving them the ball at the Monarchs 35 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
After a couple of penalties, McClanahan faced a third-and-18, and connected with Zachary Shay for a 19-yard completion to the Monarchs 23. Eight straight Anderson runs ended with a one-yard touchdown and 21-14 lead with ten seconds left in the third quarter.
Mater Dei 0 6 8 7 — 21
Bishop Amat 0 14 7 7 — 28
BA: Jay Anderson 11 run (Alexander Ragsdale kick)
BA: Anderson 47 run (Ragsdale kick)
MD: Victor Blackwell 11 pass Max Wittek (kick failed)
MD: Corbin Anderson 2 run (AJ Roth from Wittek)
BA: Anderson 1 run (Ragsdale kick)
MD: Max Wittek 1 run (kick good)
BA: Rio Ruiz 40 pass from Jerry McClanahan (Ragsdale kick)
Records: Bishop Amat 9-1; Notre Dame 6-4