The newly crowned Heisman winner is not new to hardware. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young rose to national prominence as a high school junior at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), where he helped lead the Monarchs to a national championship. And he was named USA TODAY’s Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.
As Young started calling his own plays at Mater Dei, he showed elite skill and a sense of awareness on the field beyond his years. He eluded the defensive line while keeping his eyes down the field, and could make passes through tight windows while on the move. Young easily ranked among the best dual-threat quarterbacks, but as anyone who watched Alabama this year can attest, he is a true passer.
The Bama QB ran away with the Heisman voting this year, and his success is unsurprising to those who saw his high school play. Here are seven of Young’s best performances while playing at Mater Dei.
Oct. 25, 2019: vs. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)
Mater Dei and St. John Bosco matchups are more than simple rivalry games. The CIF-SS Div. 1 championship almost always runs through these two programs, and this game dictates which of the two teams is in national title contention.
When Young attended Mater Dei, the two teams were 2-2 in their four matchups. In 2018, the Braves won in the regular season, and Mater Dei won the championship. And in 2019, the Monarchs won the regular-season game before Bosco was victorious in the title rematch.
Young’s best performance of these games was the 2019 regular-season game, in which he scored five total touchdowns, had no interceptions, and led Mater Dei to a 35-24 win.
He went 19-for-33 with 256 yards and three passing touchdowns and rushed 12 times for 78 yards and two more scores.
Statistically, that doesn’t even actually compare to some of his other performances as a senior. But given the level of competition — St. John Bosco runs its team like a college program — five touchdowns and no turnovers was an excellent game.
Sept. 21, 2018: vs. IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
There’s no better way to introduce yourself to a new football community than this. When the powerhouse IMG Academy visited, Mater Dei met the challenge with a 28-24 win.
Young accounted for all four touchdowns, including a QB keeper with just over a minute left to take the lead.
This wasn’t just a victory. IMG Academy had not lost a game since August 24. They would not lose another game until October 2019. Over that five year stretch from its 2014 loss until the 2019 loss, the Ascenders went 52-1. That “1” came against the Monarchs.
Young completed 21 of 30 passes, a 70% clip, for 309 yards and three passing touchdowns. He finished the game on his feet and the Monarchs rode this victory onto the national title.
Nov. 15, 2019: vs. Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.)
The first round of the 2019 playoffs ended up being a mere formality as the Monarchs took a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and won 63-23. Young accounted for a career-high eight total touchdowns, seven of which came through the air and one with his legs. He completed 29 of 40 passes (72.5%) for 393 yards and rushed for 29.
In fact, Mater Dei scored so quickly that their time of possession (22:49) was lower than Bishop Amat’s (25:11).
Bishop Amat had a very good season, entering the game against Mater Dei with a 9-1 record and having allowed more than 24 points only twice, one of which was an overtime contest. But Young and the Monarchs offense was too electric for the Lancers to have a chance.
Sept. 14, 2019: vs. St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.)
Young and Mater Dei absolutely dominated over the first three games of the 2019 season. But there was still a twinge of uncertainty of whether they were simply one of the best or if they were a tier above that echelon. St. Frances Academy would be the litmus test: The Panthers’ 2020 class included six four-star defensive players, three of which were on the defensive line. As a result, young would face more pressure and size than he had in his high school career.
All he did was rush for four touchdowns and 105 yards on 14 carries while completing 20 of his 33 passes for 247 yards to lead Mater Dei to a 34-18 win.
The Monarchs shut the door on the game when they took a 31-6 lead on the opening drive of the third quarter off Young’s 37-yard touchdown (his fourth of the game). From there, it was simply running out the clock over a team that entered the game ranked No. 4 in the country.
From that point on, it was evident that Young was matchup-proof.
Nov. 22, 2019: vs. Mission Viejo (Calif.)
This was supposed to be a semifinal against two of the 25 best teams in the country. Mater Dei was the consensus No. 1 at the time, and some rankings had Mission Viejo at No. 12 in the country.
It turned out to be more of an appetizer for Mater Dei than a main course of competition. Young completed 20 of 30 passes for a whopping 520 yards and seven touchdowns as the Monarchs won 49-24. That score was closer than the game itself, as the third quarter ended with a 49-10 Mater Dei lead. The Monarchs coasted from there.
Mission Viejo entered the game 11-0 and had allowed more than 14 points to only one opponent in the entire season. Mater Dei reached 14 in each of the first three quarters. It was very apparent very early that the Monarchs would not fall in the semifinals.
Sept. 27, 2019: vs. St. John’s Academy (Washington, D.C.)
St. John’s was in a similar class as St. Frances Academy. The Cadets are a perennial national powerhouse from the East Coast with an overwhelming defense. Their talent level in 2019 was extremely high despite a poor record that stemmed from an exceedingly difficult schedule against some of the best teams in the country.
Against Mater Dei, St. John’s chose to stack the box to prevent Young from running—as he had against St. Frances just two weeks prior. So, the quarterback took to the air.
Young completed over 70% of his passes (27-for-38) for 428 yards and five touchdowns as Mater Dei won 53-24.
That 53 points is an absurd number that needs some context:
Texas powerhouse Duncanville scored 35 points against St. John’s that season.
Florida powerhouse IMG Academy scored 35 points against St. John’s that season.
The season before, St. John’s only allowed two opponents two reach even 20 points.
A quick, unofficial scroll through MaxPreps shows this as the most points St. John’s had allowed in a game since September 2008.
Young’s stat line against this particular team was a remarkable feat.
Sept. 6, 2019: vs. Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.)
When I think of Young in high school, there’s one specific play that my mind tends to recall. This pass in the first half of the game in Arizona against Centennial High School showed his ability to avoid pressure and roll out of the pocket, his awareness of the sideline, and the sheer, casual arm strength and accuracy.
Arizona Republic reporter Richard Obert tweeted the video:
It was absurd. Young had a very good junior season, but this game against Centennial — the third in his senior campaign — established him as an early frontrunner for Offensive Player of the Year.
He had 357 yards and five touchdown passes on 22-for-27 passing. In the first half. To emphasize: Those numbers were in the first half alone.
In total, Young completed 31 of his 37 passes for 538 yards and threw seven touchdowns in Mater Dei’s 71-21 annihilation of an Arizona football team that had won back-to-back championships.
It established his personal passing yards record. His completion percentage of 83.8% was among the highest of his career. For the national eyes who weren’t fully aware that Young was a legitimate superstar, this game established him as a surefire, five-star QB1 who would excel at the collegiate level.
This list could have been longer than seven games. It excluded multiple performances in which Young completed every single pass he threw. There were too many games with four-plus touchdowns to include all of them — in fact, in Young’s senior year, the quarterback accounted for four or more touchdowns in every game except one, and had five or more touchdowns in 10 of the 13.
He finished the season with 4,528 passing yards with a 71.9% completion rate, threw 58 touchdowns to six interceptions and had 10 more touchdowns on the ground.
It was a precursor to a Heisman.