There's an old adage in sports that to be the best, you have to play with the best. And no school embodies that phrase more than Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.
The school's athletic program has produced some of Southern California's best high school football players, many of whom have gone on to play college and professional football.
Head coach Bruce Rollinson has led the program for the past 30 years and is credited with developing many of the nation's best recruits. This season that includes standout wide receiver Horace "Bru" McCoy, an athlete just as special in talent as he is in name.
"I was probably like eight months old," McCoy recalls about his nickname. "I was learning how to walk and falling a bunch, and getting bruises all over my body. So my grandma called me the bruiser."
The bruises may have faded, but the name stuck and is now synonymous with the nation's number one athlete in the class of 2019. McCoy is a captain at Mater Dei, a title that is not taken lightly.
"If you can commit to something like coming here and put in the hours we put in," he said, "you can commit yourself to anything."
His commitment hasn't come without sacrifice. As McCoy's mom, Shelby, will tell you, attending Mater Dei hasn't been easy.
"I get up a few minutes before 5 a.m. because I gotta get his lunch ready," she said. "Pack everything, get his football stuff out of the dryer and repack his football bag.
This routine has been her life for the past four years because the McCoys live in Palos Verdes — almost 40 miles away from Santa Ana.
A typical day for the five-star athlete is long, beginning before the sun rises and ending after many of his friends have gone to bed.
"I get up before 5 a.m., 7 a.m. lift, go to film, go to school all day until 3 p.m., and then from 3:10 p.m. to 7 p.m., we have practice.
After listening to his schedule, one might wonder if that sacrifice has been worth it. And as McCoy would tell you, the answer is yes.
"Had you asked like sophomore year? I'd say absolutely not," he said with a laugh. "But now, hindsight, looking back it's probably one of the best choices I've ever made."
And it all leads up to this moment.
On Saturday, McCoy will lead the Monarchs to a second state title game, after suiting up in a Monarch uniform for the last time. For the senior, it means one last commute that will hopefully be worth it.