Led by a valiant effort from Matt Barkley, who played most of the second half with a shoulder stinger, Mater Dei took game one 43-40 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach in front of a national television audience. Although turning the ball over four times, Barkley managed to stay within himself by throwing for 6 touchdowns in rallying the Monarchs from a 14 point 2nd half deficit. He finished the game 15-31 for 301 yards, while displaying all the tools that make him the consensus number one recruit in the nation.
Barkley's arm strength was on display from the beginning of the game, throwing a crisp skinny post route for a 1st quarter touchdown to sophomore Victor Blackwell, who himself looked like a future recruit with a ton of upside. Earlier, Blackwell got things started for the Monarchs by returning the opening kickoff untouched 92 yards for a touchdown.
Barkley continued to impress in the 2nd quarter, throwing a 20-yard out route that most high school QB's simply are not physically able to do. Often a measurement tool that gives coaches at the collegiate and professional levels an idea of arm strength and accuracy, the 15-yard sideline route is often the toughest throw for a young quarterback to make, as the ball must travel well over 30 yards "on a rope" to get to it's target. There is no room for error in throwing this route; the call cannot be lofted and must come off the fingertips a perfect spiral. Never mind the 15-yard variety, last night Barkley showed he can consistently hit receivers on time and in stride on 20-yard out patterns!
USC TE recruit Morrell Presley impressed the crowd and overwhelmed defenders with his pure athleticism, evident in catching a quick hitch in traffic and then spinning his hips and driving up field, turning a five yard gain into a 31-yard touchdown in the first half for the Colts. His 4.5 speed was evident, looking like a man amongst boys once the ball was in his hands. Presley finished the game with four receptions for 95 yards and the impressive run-after-catch touchdown.
Although not having the picture perfect game he assuredly desired from a statistical standpoint, Barkley faced pressure all night from Carson's defensive line and blitz schemes. In the face of adversity with the pocket collapsing upon him, Barkley slipped would-be tacklers and showcased his underrated mobility, throwing accurately on the run with plenty of zip on his passes. His coaches believe so much in him that they allow him to call his own plays. He demonstrated the intangibles it takes to win football games several times during the course of last night's victory. More than anything, it appears Barkley is a winner. Average quarterbacks can step onto the field against inferior talent and light up scoreboards in Division X high school football. Barkley plays against the top schools in Southern California week in and week out. The adversity he faces and the kind of defensive schemes that will oppose him this season will all look to shut him down first and his teammates second, which will make him all the better upon his debut at USC.
Next up for Barkley and Mater Dei: Thursday, September 11, 7:00 PM at Cypress. The schedule does not get any easier next week for the Monarchs, as they travel to Cypress to face the Centurions, a team that went 10-3 last year and won the CIF Southern Section Championship. Look for the full preview of this game next week on SCPlaybook.