Friday, August 5, 2016

2016 Prep Football Preseason Rankings: #9 Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders

#9 Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders

Location: Chula Vista, CA
School Colors: Navy Blue & Gold
Division: II
League: Metro-Mesa
Championships: 1 (State), 5 (Section), 14 (League)
Head Coach: John Joyner (8th Season)

2015 Recap: 14-1* (3-0 Metro-South Bay, 1st)

CIF San Diego Division IV Champions
 CIF Division V-AA State Champions

Mater Dei Catholic should have ended its historic season undefeated for the first time since putting up back-to-back 13-0 finishes in 2002 and 2003. Technically they did, but their week two victory over El Capitan was forfeited due to the use of an ineligible player.

Despite the minor setback, the Crusaders went on to close the season on a 13-game win streak. In the process, they claimed their first section title since 2003 by avenging their 2014 finals loss to Bishop's, and earned its program's first state championship with a 56-21 triumph over Immanuel (Reedley, CA).

2016 Outlook

With the return of many key contributors, the Crusaders are primed to have continued success this season, but it won't be a cakewalk this time around.

Not only does their move to the Metro-Mesa League pit them against the top teams in the South Bay, they will also face some challenging non-league opponents. Most notably; a Sept. 16th trip to Los Angeles for a meeting with Augustus Hawkins (finished 8-1-1 last season), and a Sept. 30th home slate against perennial Open Division contender Mission Hills.

“We are getting prepared for a much more physical brand of football,” head coach John Joyner told us. “We're excited about moving to the Mesa, but know there are some excellent football programs to compete with.”

If having a stacked regular season schedule wasn't enough, Mater Dei will also get a boost in playoff competition after being promoted to Division II. The Crusaders spent the last 10 seasons in Division IV, ending their tenure with back-to-back appearances in the finals.

Mater Dei is only team in the section to move up two divisions this season.

“We take it as a compliment,” Joyner stated. “We're the only team playing in a higher division then their power ranking sets.”

A large senior class will be headlined by the explosive offensive trio of duel-threat quarterback Chris Jones, tailback CJ Verdell, and receiver/return specialist Eli Shelton.

“We have a lot of guys that are key to our success, and with a small roster every player is important.” said Joyner. “But anytime you return an all-CIF tailback and an all-league quarterback, you feel confident that the offense will head in the right direction.”

Despite losing their leading tackler and sack artist to graduation, the defense should remain solid. The line will be anchored by junior Nick Dell'aqua, while interception leaders Elias Eribez and Jovan Bayless return to the secondary.

* League Opponent
(#) Rivalry Game

Impact Losses

WR/CB David Bracamonte
LB Jayden Emberton-Gaines 
LB Mario Williams

Impact Returners

Junior DL Nick Dell'aqua
Totaled 5 sacks, 21 tackles, & 1 forced fumble in 2015

Senior QB Chris Jones
Passed for 2147 yards & 25 TDs in 2015

Senior WR/KR Eli Shelton
Caught 23 passes for 804 yards & 11 TDs (+3 KR TDs) in 2015

Senior RB CJ Verdell
2015 First-Team All-CIF San Diego
Rushed for 2,135 yards & 28 TDs (34 Total) in 2015

Did You Know?

From 1960 to 2006, Mater Dei Catholic was known as Marian Catholic. The original campus, located on Coronado Avenue between Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, was closed down and reestablished in the Eastlake area in 2007.


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