BELLFLOWER, Calif. — Not only is a team a reflection of its leader, but at St. John Bosco, head coach Jason Negro is what some would call the ultimate brave.
Over the last 12 years since returning to his alma mater, the coach has built more than just a winning program – he has built a championship brand.
"This was a vision and we've really been able to execute it," he said of the program.
What You Need To Know
- The Mater Dei and St. John Bosco game brings together the top two teams in the state and the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the nation
- On the field will be 60 combined players that boast at least one FBS offer to play college football
- The programs are headed by Bruce Rollinson and Jason Negro, two alumni of their respective programs
- The game on Friday will likely determine the winner of the Trinity League and the Division 1 representative in the state championship game
Since 2013, the Braves have won three state championships and two national titles — becoming a destination for some of the region's top football players.
"The talent and level of play is much different from when I was here," Negro said. "I do not know if I ever would have played in baseball and football as a student athlete, but that is a good thing. We have evolved and come a long way from the '90s. We've been able to build a special thing in Bellflower and we're only scratching the surface."
Since taking over as head coach, Negro has coached in plenty of big games with a national media following and matchups against the country's top-tier teams. However, no game carries more meaning, personal or professional, than the Braves' Week 6 matchup.
"Without question, anytime you have the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country, you're going to be excited. You're going to get fired up," he explained. "You can't hide from the fact that you're playing one of the top ranked teams in the country and it is your rival."
After all, to be the best, you have to play the best, and in this case, it just so happens that the top team is a short 30-minute drive away.
Whereas Negro is the ultimate brave, Coach Bruce Rollinson is the ultimate Monarch.
"This is why you came to Mater Dei to get in games like this," Rollinson said. "Jason and I have been doing this for years. He knows what makes us tick and I know what makes him tick."
An alum of Mater Dei himself, Rollinson has built the Monarchs into a longtime national power.
He has 320 wins (and counting), four national championships, and seven CIF titles to his name.
During his tenure, the team has been consistently ranked among the country's best, but all it took was the rise of St. John Bosco to bring new fire to this longtime head coach.
"I made a commitment especially in 2012 that if I'm going to continue to coach, I want to win national championships, I want to go toe to toe with Bosco," he said.
Because while these two are rivals on the field, they are more alike than different. Each is setting the bar higher for the other, year after year, game after nail-biting game.
"It's kind of that family, mutual respect," Rollinson said. "That's what makes it special, it's big game week."
"If it wasn't for him pushing me and me pushing him, we probably would be with the rest of the pack across the league," Negro added. I want to be greater than Bruce, and Bruce wants to be greater than me."
A rivalry that has grown into one of the nation's best and is captained by two coaches who are the ultimate competitors.