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Mater Dei QB shines in state championship win

12/19/2015, 10:07pm PST
By Steve Brand

Crusaders junior a threat in the air and on the ground in state championship win

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Mater Dei quarterback Chris Jones dives into the end zone against Reedley Immanuel on Saturday. It was one of two rushing touchdowns for Jones.

— The way Mater Dei Catholic coach John Joyner saw it after watching film of Reedley Immanuel, his Crusaders had two advantages in Saturday’s Division V-AA CIF State Football Championship Bowl.

“We’ll use our team speed,” said Joyner, certain that the quickness on both sides of the ball would play to his club’s favor. “And, I think our defensive backs are one of our strengths.

“In the end, we’ll let the game dictate what we do.”

Though the Eagles (11-3), who had to travel 368 miles from just 22 miles southeast of near Fresno, figured Mater Dei Catholic would get junior CJ Verdell the ball often, they couldn’t have known junior quarterback Chris Jones would have the game of his life.

In the first half alone, Jones accounted for 255 yards —101 rushing and 154 passing — and three touchdowns as the Crusaders (14-1) dominated on both sides of the ball in a 56-21 running-time victory.

Jones added a 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter before watching the fourth quarter, finishing with 290 total yards and a hand in four scores.

“We came in thinking we were going to pound them,” said Jones. “Opening it up was more of a reaction to what they did.”

Senior Isaiah Faue, who had two fumble recoveries, wrapped up the season.

“When we were freshmen people were telling us we wouldn’t win a game,” he said. “Look what happened.”

Verdell , who started slowly, raced past 2,000 yards for the season by gaining 126, scoring on runs of 66 and 16 yards.

It was Mater Dei’s 13th straight win after suffering a forfeit setback two games into the season, meaning they were unbeaten on the field. The loss snapped Immanuel’s 4-game winning streak.

Jones riddled the Eagles’ defense with his accurate passing and the Crusaders defense completely stymied Immanuel, limiting the visitors to just 39 yards before intermission.

Jones found Kyle Moses for a14-yard TD on the Crusaders’ second possession and hit Verdell from 16 yards out one series later. On the next series, he ran a quarterback keeper 70 yards and a 21-0 lead which Immanual would never threaten.

Each time Immanual scored, Mater Dei almost immediately answered and with a 35-point lead in the fourth quarter, kept the clock running.

“When you have a guy like CJ, you normally don’t need to pass,” said Jones, who finished 12-of-21 for 164 yards.

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