Sunset was still a half hour away when the Bryce Young-era began on a sweltering evening inside Santa Ana Stadium on Aug. 17.
He took three steps back on his first play from scrimmage as the starting quarterback for the defending national championship Mater Dei football team and effortlessly completed a pass to his left side.
Young completed his second throw on the opening drive of the season as well, helping the Monarchs march down the field and score a touchdown, taking a lead they’d maintain the rest of the way in the 42-14 win against Bishop Amat.
“Really good first win,” Young said afterward. “We won this decisively. We can’t really complain at all.”
Unfortunately, the thrill of victory would last less than a week. Five days after knocking off Bishop Amat, the Monarchs forfeited the win because they used an ineligible player during the game. The unidentified player had already exhausted his eight semesters of eligibility, something that wasn’t verified until after the game.
It was the first loss for Mater Dei since the final game of the 2016 season.
The Monarchs went 15-0 a year ago to capture the Trinity League title and win the CIF-State Open Division Bowl Game, something that surely caught Young’s attention after his sophomore season ended at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles.
The opportunity to play quarterback for the Monarchs then became a real possibility when JT Daniels decided in December to skip his senior season at Mater Dei and enroll at USC in hopes of winning the starting job with the Trojans.
Daniels passed for 12,014 yards and 152 touchdowns as the starting quarterback for the Monarchs the past three seasons.
Two weeks after Daniels made that decision, Young announced he was transferring to Mater Dei, one the most prominent high schools in the country when it comes to producing top-notch players at that highly visible position.
In late July, Young committed to USC, following in the footsteps of former Mater Dei quarterbacks Daniels, Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart.
Young said he didn’t feel any butterflies taking the field in his team debut.
“I really felt a lot calmer than at one point I thought I would,” he said. “That’s a credit to my teammates. They did a great job.”
Putting teammates ahead of one’s self is a virtue of a great leader, and Young certainly benefited from a strong supporting cast.
Running backs Shakobe Harper and Sean Dollars helped take pressure off Young by rushing for more than 100 yards each and combining for five of the six rushing touchdowns.
“Our running game really carried us, really stepped up,” Young said.
Young also flashed his running ability on what was likely the biggest touchdown of the game.
He scrambled 19 yards for a score with three seconds left in the first half to extend the lead to 28-7 and Bishop Amat never pulled any closer after halftime.
Young finished 12-for-20 for 108 passing yards and an interception. He also ran for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Young will likely need to polish his downfield throws, as he overthrew a few wide-open receivers. He also had problems with some low snaps from center out of the shotgun.
Beyond that, he looked like the next great quarterback to emerge from Mater Dei.