There must be something in the water down in north central Orange County, and I think the only people who know about that “something” are football players at Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High School. After all, how else do you explain what is going on between Mater Dei and the University of Southern California?

Over the course of a decade, three boys who have led the Monarchs under the Friday Night Lights of Santa Ana Stadium have graduated to near-adulthood by leading the Trojans under the Saturday Night Lights of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, exchanging Mater Dei’s red-and-white for Southern Cal’s cardinal-and-gold in the process.

OK, one of those boys is still in the process of growing up and another is on the verge of leaving Mater Dei for USC, but the point still remains – those quarterbacks at Mater Dei must be drinking from a special vat of Gatorade mixed just for them and no one else. Just look at the track record. Not only is Mater Dei turning into the ideal “prep quarterback’s gym,” it is one of only two high schools in the country to have two alumni eventually hoist Heisman Trophies. That other school is Dallas’ Woodrow Wilson High School, which saw Davey O’Brien and Tim Brown have their respective names etched into Heisman Trophy lore.

Back here in Santa Ana, Mater Dei’s John Huarte won the Heisman in 1964, three years after he played his last game as a Monarch. Almost 40 years later, Matt Leinart was conferred the Heisman in 2004, three years after he himself trotted the football field as the Monarchs’ starting play-caller. For those of you who have short-term memories, Leinart won his Heisman as a Trojan. (Ironic side bar: Huarte won his as a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.)

Five years after Leinart’s collegiate football career peaked, USC plucked another All-American quarterback out of Mater Dei – Matt Barkley, the current starter over there at University Park.

Oh, and the Trojans are not done with the Catholic school that doubles as a football powerhouse. Just a few days ago,’s Arash Markazi reported the Monarchs current starting quarterback, Max Wittek, has officially committed to USC.

Wittek, who replaced Barkley under center at Mater Dei last season, said it best when he told Markazi of his decision: “Obviously their legacy of quarterbacks in the past few years has been great.”

The question now is whether Wittek will indeed continue this recent trend of Mater Dei quarterbacks suddenly finding themselves trying out for the same job at USC. Interestingly enough, his numbers were not at all startling last season, his first at the school. The then-junior quarterback completed 136 of 230 passes for 2,126 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions while sporting a 6-5 overall record. (Wittek also rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns last season.)

No doubt, Wittek will have to improve upon those numbers if he hopes to be a potential senior-year starter at USC – though his coaches at Mater Dei believe in his raw talents enough to claim he is much more legitimate than his junior season stats indicated.

“Max is, foot-speed wise, faster than the others,” Mater Dei’s head football coach Bruce Rollinson says. “His straight-ahead speed is worth noting. I’m not a big 40-yard dash guy, but I would imagine if I did he’d run a 4.6.”

Then again, no one has to imagine about past results, and no one in Santa Ana is complaining about this newfound pipeline originating from Santa Ana Stadium and ending at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In a way, it is a match made in heaven, what with Orange County’s top football program feeding blue chip recruits into Los Angeles’ best college football program, especially considering how the O.C. is teeming with USC alumni. Factor in the lack of college football programs across the board in Orange County, then what better place than USC for the best prep gridiron players hailing from the O.C. to end up at?

And should Barkley and Wittek both have fruitful careers at USC, expect the Trojans to continue discovering prolific gems in Santa Ana. Hopefully, neither Barkley nor Wittek will feel too much undue pressure in making their alma mater proud.