Roger Canepa sees the pieces in place for Central Catholic to make a run at a State Bowl. He also realizes the toll a playoff run could take on his team.
"The playoffs are punishing. We've seen it," said Canepa, whose Raiders had two Sac-Joaquin Section titles runs derailed by playoff injuries in the last few years. "We're not deep, so we've gotta remain healthy."
The Raiders weren't suffering from any ailments this night.
Rey Vega scored five TDs, three on plays of 60 yards or more, and Oregon-bound tight end John Mundt had two long TD catches as the Raiders routed Patterson 63-20 to win the outright Western Athletic Conference title.
Central (8-2, 6-0) opens the Division 4 playoffs Friday with a home opener, and it would take four wins to earn a section title. That's a requirement for the Raiders to be considered for the NorCal Division 4 Bowl whose winner goes to Carson to play for a state small-school crown.
The Raiders took that trip five years ago: The Freddy Bland-led team lost to St. Bonaventure.
Central Catholic showed it has the firepower to go to Carson again.
Vega raced 60 yards for a TD on his first touch, and added a 63-yard TD run and an 83-yard return of a squib kickoff on the final play of the first half.
Vega, a transfer from Davis who sat out six weeks, added a 19-yard TD on a swing pass from Garrett Ardis (185 yards passing, 3 TDs) and an 8-yard TD run.
Ray Lomas, a power runner who provides different challenges for a defense, capped the scoring with a 3-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
Vega (12 carries, 183 yards) and Lomas (13, 105) tore off long runs, breaking tackles at the line as they continued downfield.
Lomas averaged 150 yards through the first six games, but has split carries with Vega the last month. That's kept both healthy and strong.
"From what I see, Rey has got that great speed and Lomas uses power," said center Chandler Bengston, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore. "They are a change of pace from each other. Having two backs going into the playoffs? A great feeling."
Central, The Bee's No. 1 small school and No. 1 in Northern California, relied on emotion to fuel its win.
"Patterson's playing for a title, like we were, and we have had great games over the years," said Canepa, noting the Tigers (7-3, 4-2) would have had a piece of the title with a win.
Central led 42-7 at half, as Mundt caught scoring tosses of 70 and 30 yards. Each time Ardis hit his muscular tight end right off the line, and Mundt (2 catches, 106 yards) outran the defense.
Patterson got within 35-7 as Joey Lopes (21 of 36, 255 yards, 3 TDs, INT) hit Jordan Levu with a TD pass with 3 seconds in the half.
Patterson squibbed a kickoff down the middle, with Vega picking it up at the 17. He danced around a couple of defenders, broke two tackles in is way to the 50 and burst through a hole with the clock showing zeroes.
Lopes and Levu (8 catches, 103 yards, 3 TDs) hooked up twice to open the second half, as the Tigers began going exclusively to the air. Levu's third TD catch cut Central's lead to 42-20 late in third quarter, before the Raiders went back to Vega.
He took a swing pass on the right side and attacked the sideline, stepping out of tackles as he had all night while racing down the sideline.
Patterson's Jordan Levu makes a 16-yard touchdown catch.
Central Catholic's Rey Vega scores on a 63-yard touchdown run.
Central Catholic's Blake Escobar scampers for a 30-yard touchdown run.
Central Catholic's Blake Escobar knocks down a fourth-down pass.
Patterson High football team's pregame Haka dance.
Central Catholic's John Mundt records a sack against Patterson.