ANAHEIM -- The annual rivalry between Servite and Mater Dei didn't disappoint those who braved the threat of rain at Angel Stadium on Friday. Never mind that Mater Dei came in with a losing record or Servite came in as the No. 1 team in the ESPNLA top 25. When the cleats hit the turf, the so-called holy war exceeded expectations.
Turning back momentum to come from behind in the third quarter, Servite scored a 35-28 victory over the Monarchs as Cody Pittman passed for one touchdown and ran for another, and Charlie Etiaki rushed for touchdowns of 72 and 52 yards.
The victory for Servite (8-1, 4-0) was sweet on several levels. It was the Friars' third win in a row over their nemesis after losing 20 consecutive years. More important, it clinched at least a share of a seventh consecutive league title since the hiring of coach Troy Thomas, who breathed a heavy sigh after his team won its 18th consecutive Trinity League game.
Servite closes the season next week against Santa Margarita (8-1, 3-1) at Cerritos College.
With its loss, valiant as it was following a 28-0 defeat a week ago against Orange Lutheran, Mater Dei (3-6, 1-3) will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1986 and have a losing record for the first time since 1981. The Monarchs finish next week against a rejuvenated JSerra, which upset No. 22 Orange Lutheran, 31-14, on Thursday night.
Despite the heroics of Pittman, who threw an eight-yard TD pass to Ainslie Johnson to complete the first scoring drive and scored on a one-yard run to tie the score at 21-21 with 3:48 left in the third quarter, it was defense and special teams that may have had the game's decisive moment.
On third and seven, Butch Pauu sacked Ryan McMahon for a 10-yard loss at the 14 -- one of five for the Friars' defense -- and then Daniel Tejeda blocked Nick O'Toole's punt; the ball went skyward and Pauu caught it in the back of the end zone for a TD and a 28-21 lead with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
Mater Dei's next drive ended with James Ferraro's interception, and Etiaki followed with his 52-yard score for a 35-21 lead with 8:08 left.
Mater Dei wasn't done. McMahon passed 14 yards to Duarte to make it 35-28 with 4:53 left, and then the Monarchs recovered a fumble on teh ensuing kickoff at the 25. The Servite defense held tough and took over on downs at the 20.
Mater Dei reached the Servite 24 on its final drive with less than a minute remaining, but an intentional grounding penalty moved the ball back to the 40, and the game ended with a pair of incomplete passes.
Etiaki, in his first game back since breaking his collarbone, carried 13 times for 150 yards. His 78-yard score came with eight seconds left in the first half and gave Servite a 14-6 lead.
Mater Dei had just pulled to 7-6 on a 51-yard bomb from McMahon to Thomas Duarte. Even though the point-after by Brett Parker was pulled to the left, Mater Dei was clearly in business. They stayed in business all night, but could never close the sale.
McMahon completed 14 of 27 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns, and Mychal Traylor threw a 45-yard TD pass on a halfback pass. Duarte caught three touchdown passes.
Pittman carried 13 times for 94 yards, and completed 14 of 19 passes for 159.