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.
“I'm a playmaker, and I have to make big plays, that's the priority,” Blackwell said. “I want the rock. I want the ball.”
If anything, Mater Dei didn't get him the ball often enough, and it allowed Bosco to remain in the game until the end. But when Blackwell did get the ball, he was magical.
He took in a sweet pass from Max Wittek on Mater Dei's third play of the game in stride in the end zone for a 32-yard score, and he also caught a slant from Wittek in the second quarter to go up 17-6.
But the play where Blackwell really showed the goods was the play before his second touchdown. He caught a deep pass from Blackwell on the sideline and got entangled with the defender; he stepped away from the defender, then fought off other tacklers as he moved down the sideline like a swashbuckling pirate. The play covered 60 yards, and while his Blackwell showed he could play above the rim in his epic performance against San Clemente – six catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns – the Bosco performance illustrated his excellence at ground level.
In the fourth quarter and trailing, 20-17, Blackwell took a backwards pass to the sidelines, juked his defender and scrambled for a 41-yard gain. It was a monster play in a drive that culminated in Wittek's 14-yard scramble into the end zone for a 24-20 lead with 6:56 to go.
Even on that play, Blackwell was involved.
“It was a slant and go, pump, looked at Victor and he was double covered like he was all night,” Wittek said. “I saw an opening and I took it. I wasn't going to be stopped.”
Mater Dei wasn't out of the woods. Bosco, which got touchdown runs of 35 and 59 yards from Martin Brown (19 carries, 153 yards) and a 66-yard touchdown pass from Raymond Medina to Bryce Treggs, was driving for a chance to go ahead. On second and three at the Mater Dei 37, the ball was snapped over Medina's head and recovered byMater Dei's Zavier Parker. That was the ball game.
Mater Dei scored again, Blackwell catching a 13-yard slant on fourth-and-eight that preceded Freddie Mora's 16-yard TD run.
“His football IQ has grown incredibly since last year,” Wittek said of Blackwell. “You put that with his raw talent and it's something special.”