MODESTO -- The Central Catholic High football team grinds down opponents like a blacksmith pounds an anvil.
Punishing. Relentless. Play to play and block to block.
They are Ray Lomas' spinning out of tackles and Rey Vega sprinting away from them. They are fullback/linebacker Blake Escobar's imposing work on both sides of the ball and David Henriques carving holes in the defense.
The Raiders displayed all their physical wares Friday night during a convincing 34-13 victory over Center of Antelope.
The win pushes CC (11-2) into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 title game next week against Escalon the Raiders' first trip to the section final in five years.
"We have an historic program. This is where championships are won," Raiders coach Roger Canepa said as he pointed toward CC's banners on its bleachers. "It's good for all of us to get back."
About 2,000 at Patton Field watched Central Catholic deliver tough terms immediately. The Raiders, featuring Lomas (22 carries, 127 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Vega (17 carries, 110 yards, 2 TDs), ripped for touchdowns on their first four possessions of the first half.
Center (10-3) walked onto Patton Field with speed in elusive quarterback Tyrel Anderson and game-breaking D'Juan Bellaire. Trouble was, the Raiders held onto the ball for long stretches while they pulled away.
Once again, CC's Ray and Rey Show controlled the game. Lomas, low-slung but powerful, willed himself downfield and shoved the pile.
Vega, the change-of-pace home-run hitter, entered the game in the second quarter after Lomas and Company had carved out a 13-0 lead.
Center, finding life on a 31-yard kickoff return by Bellaire, closed to 13-7 on Anderson's 8-yard pass to David Tolentino.
But that was the Cougars' only touchdown on offense. Bellaire, who finished the season with nearly 2,200 yards and 27 TDs, was limited to 112 yards and was held out of the end zone.
Central Catholic answered Center's TD with a pair of scores before halftime. Lomas' 11-yard burst to the right illustrated all his skill. He cut inside, leaving safety Robert Gervais grasping at air, and skipped home standing up.
With 49 seconds left in the half, the Raiders increased their lead to 27-7 when Lomas followed Escobar into the line and finished his 8-yard burst.
"I'm shifty. He (Vega) is fast," Lomas said. "I'm all right with that."
The Raiders' win would have been more lopsided if not for two turnovers inside the Center 10-yard line. One of them resulted in a 91-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Gervais during the third quarter.
But on the next kickoff, Vega took the ball on the bounce, found a crease down the middle, angled to his left and easily outraced kicker Matt Cooper to complete his 81-yard TD answer.
One of the few things that went wrong for Central Catholic was Center's block of a PAT, which ended Kenny Smart's 80-kick streak. The Raiders won't sweat it. They've earned another matchup with Escalon, the team that has ended their season the last two years.
"We were up against Escalon at halftime last year," said Henriques, one of CC's hard-working offensive linemen. "We remember."
Central Catholic's Rey Vega scores for the Raiders (James Burns/The Modesto Bee)
Central Catholic's Ray Lomas scores third touchdown of game (James Burns/The Modesto Bee)
Central Catholic's Ray Lomas puts the Raiders on the board (James Burns/The Modesto Bee)
Central Catholic's John Mundt makes defensive stop (James Burns/The Modesto Bee)
Central Catholic's Ray Lomas scores another touchdown (James Burns/The Modesto Bee)