Before Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei faced off against Trinity League foe Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic, head coach Bruce Rollinson told his players that the Eagles were a “great team.”
To combat that, 2018 four-star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said the Monarches “came out and tried to play our best.” He thought they had played “pretty good.”
They played much better than pretty good. They were an unstoppable machine. Mater Dei scored 56 points in the first half while holding Santa Margarita to 55 total yards.
Amon-Ra and his older brother, Osiris St. Brown, were particularly dominant. Osiris, a 2017 four-star receiver committed to Stanford, had four catches for 112 yards and two scores. Amon-Ra caught five passes for 82 yards and three touchdowns.
“The first one was, it was more of a pick route from the goal line, so the outside receiver ran a slant and I kind of stuttered and ran a wheel route outside of him,” Amon-Ra said. “J.T. [Daniels] just threw it over and I just tried to make a play. The other one was a post. The defense was sending the heat, so J.T. called a post. No safety over top, so we took that. Then the other one was a fade route. J.T. threw a great ball.”
Amon-Ra defers the credit to Daniels, a four-star 2019 quarterback. Daniels was clinical against Santa Margarita, throwing seven touchdowns in the first half and only four incompletions in the game, but it is the connection that the entire group has with him that enables him to so often throw them open. For Amon-Ra, it’s a connection he’s been building since he was playing with Daniels in the seventh grade.
“We have a lot of chemistry,” Amon-Ra said. “He knows the way I run my routes, so whatever situation we have, I'll tell him what kind of route I'm going to run and he puts it on the spot every time because we have that chemistry now.”
Mater Dei offensive coordinator Dave Money works closely with Daniels on the weekly gameplan, but gives him a lot of freedom to make adjustments on the fly at the line of scrimmage. Daniels has been working with Money since attending his camps in the sixth grade and says his inquisitive nature has helped him learn the offense.
“I've asked a million questions. You get to the point where you start to understand things because a guy like that is the best football mind around,” Daniels said. “Over time working with Coach Money I've developed a trust.”
Daniels also has a confident trust with his receivers that he’s built in the offseason working together on the passing league circuit. Instead of playing for one of the many all-star 7-on-7 squads in Southern California, the Mater Dei players spent this summer working with each other.
“That was the biggest advantage we took coming into the year,” Daniels said. “The reps you get during the offseason and the summer really determine how you're going to do in the fall and we got a million of them in the offseason.
“It's so critical to an offensive passing game to have [chemistry] between the quarterback and receivers and we've got that,” Daniels said. “Mater Dei football is so intense, you have to build that chemistry or else you're not going to get through it. You've got to have guys that you can rely on.”
He has that in the St. Brown brothers and 2018 four-star Nikko Remigio and 2019 four-star Horace 'Bru' McCoy. Most highly ranked quarterbacks may have one ranked receiving option. Daniels has four and he’s thankful for it.
“As a quarterback, you've got to have full trust in your receivers. With these guys, I couldn't trust them any more. I'm calling plays but almost every play I get feedback. Osiris comes back, 'Hey I've got him on fade.' Amon says, 'I've got him on a post.' Next play we dial it up. All I've got to do is throw it out there.”
Daniels has confidence in all his receivers, but he’s been most reliant on Amon-Ra. The youngest of the St. Brown brothers has a team-high 32 catches and 14 touchdowns. He’s gained 610 yards, just slightly behind Osiris’ 647.
Of the St. Brown brothers, Osiris is committed to Stanford and older brother, Equanimeous, is already making an impact as a freshman at Notre Dame. But ask Amon-Ra and he’ll tell you that he is the best.
When it’s all said and done, he may be right. Though he is only a junior, Amon-Ra has already received a number of scholarship offers, including LSU and Nebraska most recently. The offers have come from local schools USC and UCLA and colleges from all over the country.
“Right now, I have no top schools in terms of colleges,” Amon-Ra said. “I’m just looking to go to school where I can play as a freshman, so wherever that is, that's where I'll be going. Being able to go to any state is big. Not every college is in California, so you've got to look around some times.”
He has received offers from both of his brothers’ schools, but he won’t be necessarily following either brother’s footsteps. He wants to make his own path. Whether one of his brothers has traveled that path previously won’t matter.
He has watched and learned about the recruiting process from both of his brothers’ experiences. Now he’s ready fro his own.
“It would be great to go to Stanford with my brother or Notre Dame with the other, but at the end of the day, I'm just going to do what's best for me.”
One of the schools Amon-Ra has been in consistent talk with has been USC. Since he received an offer after the Trojans’ 7-on-7 summer camp, he has been regularly exchanging Direct Messages on Twitter with head coach Clay Helton and offensive coordinator Tee Martin.
“Tee Martin will just ask me how I'm doing and we'll talk a little. Then Coach Clay Helton will always just send me good luck messages and stuff, so it's great.”
Helton actually shot Amon-Ra a DM before the Santa Margarita game wishing him luck. It wasn’t needed. Despite not throwing a pass beyond the line of scrimmage in the second half, Mater Dei won going away, 62-14.
If Santa Margarita was great as Rollinson said, what’s that make the Monarchs, Amon-Ra was asked.
“Wow. I don't know. We're pretty good.”
Pretty good indeed.
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