Joseph Latu took a first-quarter handoff, charged toward the line of scrimmage and disappeared.
Poof. Gone. Vanished. His bright-yellow pants were drowned by a sea of Bellflower St. John Bosco gray, the San Mateo Serra running back stood up again. And like divers plunging into a pool, members of an unconquerable Braves defense leaped almost comically one by one into the pile, burying Latu. Nowhere left to turn.
They blitzed. They crunched. They draped. Saturday night was the latest unrelenting effort from defenders for a St. John Bosco unit that’ll stand at the top with any unit in California high school history, a defense that operates two and three steps ahead of every offensive attack. And with their 45-0 domination of Serra at Saddleback College, the Braves secured the program’s fourth CIF Open Division state championship and put the final stamp on a claim they’ve made since the beginning of the season.
“This is the best Bosco defense,” senior defensive back Jshawn Frausto-Ramos said early in the week, “we’ve ever had.”
Yes — better than the national-championship unit in 2019. Better than the 13-2 squad in 2016. Better than the undefeated 2013 team that started it all at Bosco.
“There’s nothing like our team,” junior defensive back Peyton Woodyard said.
The secret to a historically dominant high school football defense? It’s not a high school defense.
In 2018, Bosco switched to a scheme that resembled the ones run by college powers Georgia and Alabama in almost all respects.
And it’s taken life this season through a defensive concept called “simulators,” per defensive coordinator Chris King. It’s almost a trick: a safety or linebacker is brought up to blitz, giving the quarterback the impression that Bosco’s defense is pressuring — except only four players rush as others drop back into coverages.
On simulators this season, King said, Bosco’s held offenses to less than two yards a play.
“They’re running it in college, so just imagine running it in high school,” Frausto-Ramos said. “Offensive coordinators don’t know what’s happening. So we definitely feel like we have an edge.”
Forget edge. The gap between Bosco and Serra, which entered Saturday 13-0, could be described only as a chasm.
“We have an army of believers, we have hearts of gold, it’s just, tonight on a night like this, the talent — we were overwhelmed by it,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh said.
Serra alumnus Tom Brady contributed to the Padres’ expenses to travel to Southern California, but it’s unlikely even he could save Serra’s offense; the Padres gained minus-six yards in the first quarter against a stifling Bosco front.
Bosco forced three turnovers in the first half and a fumble at the start of the third quarter.
Cameron Jones ran for two short scores and quarterback Pierce Clarkson passed for 184 first-half yards and a long touchdown to DeAndre Moore to put Bosco up 35-0. At the end of the third quarter, junior Marcelles Williams notched his second pick of the game, Khalil Warren took a handoff 57 yards for his second touchdown, and Clarkson blew kisses to the crowd.
That was that. And that chasm — Bosco and Santa Ana Mater Dei locked in a dance as the rest of California fights to catch up — only widens.