Filling up the nonleague portion of the football schedule has forced Trinity League coaches to expand their horizons in recent years.
Mater Dei, for instance, travelled to Peoria, Arizona on Sept. 6 to take on a local powerhouse. The head coach of that team was surprised to see the Monarchs out so early for pre-game warmups, mainly because it was 107 degrees outside.
He was even more impressed by Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young, who threw for a school-record 528 yards and tossed seven touchdowns in the 72-21 victory.
Five years ago, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson wouldn’t have searched for a game in one of the hottest regions in North America during the first weekend of September, but Trinity League coaches have become increasingly desperate to find five opponents to fill their nonleague games.
“By 2015 and ’16, it was virtually impossible to get games,” Rollinson told the Arizona Republic.
Just three years ago, Mater Dei, JSerra, Servite and Santa Margarita didn’t travel outside of Southern California to play their nonleague games.
Mater Dei played road games in 2016 at Bishop Amat in La Puente and against Edison at Orange Coast College, and hosted Mayfair, La Mirada and Upland at Santa Ana Stadium.
This season, the Monarchs opened with home games against Corona Centennial and Villa Park at Santa Ana Stadium, and then headed to Arizona.
The Monarchs also played St. Frances Academy from Baltimore, Md. at St. John Bosco, and then flew cross-country to play St. John’s in Washington, DC on Sept. 27.
Mater Dei opened league play the following week against Orange Lutheran.
Rollinson provided one theory as to why it’s become harder to schedule local teams for nonleague games.
“Probably because I’ve been in (coaching) for so long, some of my buddies are not in it anymore, guys who trusted me and knew it would be a good game,” Rollinson said. “We travel well. If we come to their stadium, you know they’ll get a great gate. Nobody is interested in that anymore.”
Mater Dei was one of three Trinity League teams that played outside of California on Sept. 6.
Santa Margarita travelled to Colorado to play an out-of-state opponent for the first time since the 2014 season.
The Eagles headed to the Denver suburbs to face Cherry Creek, and the Bruins turned the tables on Santa Margarita, taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and cruising to a 35-10 win. The Eagles scored their lone touchdown in the final minute of the game.
Santa Margarita was familiar with Cherry Creek after hosting the Bruins at Trabuco Hills last season and losing 21-14.
Servite played in Las Vegas on Sept 6. The Friars took on Bishop Gorman, which has regularly scheduled Trinity League teams the last several years.
Servite was no match for Bishop Gorman, losing 42-21.
JSerra opened its season by travelling to Utah to face a team from Salt Lake City. The Lions won 24-14.
They then played St. Joseph Regional from Montvale, N.J. at Cathedral Catholic High in San Diego, losing that game 24-13.
“We played hard and were out-executed by a very good team that is well coached,” JSerra coach Pat Harlow said. “We are young and we will get better. We will stick to our plan and get better.”