STOCKTON -- For six weeks, Rey Vega was a player without a field on which to play. Now he doesn't want to leave.
"Its a great feeling, being back on the field, running the ball, playing with teammates," said Vega, forced to miss six games after transferring from Davis High. "It feels good to win, too. I'm having a great time."
There's no reason to expect it will change the next two weeks. With Vega at its head, Central Catholic has become a small-school monster.
The muscular tailback was terrorizing Division 1 high school players while at Davis, piling up 3,500 yards and 42 TDs. Those teams went 4-16.
Vega was running against D4 kids Saturday, though, and he displayed the difference between divisions. He ripped off TD runs of 26, 55 and 83 yards, leaving would-be tacklers grasping air as Central pounded Escalon 52-10 for its first Sac-Joaquin Section title since 2007. It was a section-record 16th title for the school.
It was the first for Vega, as well as coach Roger Canepa, and it was hard to tell which one was more excited.
"This team has my style, the power running backs, the physical linemen, the commitment to run," said Canepa, who earned a reputation for physical play while coaching Sonora and Calaveras. "Mountain teams used to run, the weather up there, you know, so that's how I coach."
And he did it real well Saturday.
Making full use of twin tailbacks Vega (18 carries, 214 yards) and Ray Lomas (10 carries, 115 yards, two TDs), Canepa did something no other coach has: The 42-point win was the largest in 26 years of D4 finals.
"So maybe I can coach a bit now, eh?" said a grinning Canepa, whose playoff losses the last four year had some alumni wanting a new coach.
That intensified after Central lost a 17-0 lead and the game at Escalon in last year's semifinal. Canepa did not want another winter of that.
"Escalon beat us good in the second half last year," Canepa said. "I told these kids today, 'We will own the second half, do you hear me.' "
And his Raiders did own the final 24 minutes, turning a 24-10 halftime lead into one of their greatest wins.
Vega, who has run for 1,200 yards and has 27 TDs in his seven games, wants to play two more this month.
"We're explosive," he said. "Ray (Lomas) gets the ball and is through the hole before you see him. I like watching Ray run. He's so strong."
Both backs are generous, as well.
"People thought it could be a problem having two backs this good? It's not, because they care about wins, not carries," said Canepa, who gets big runs from Vega and Lomas (1,760 yards, 29 TDs). "They care about wins, not carries. They came here to win, just like the rest of us."
They'll get at least one more opportunity, and most folks following prep football think they'll have two.
Central Catholic (12-2) is expected to play in Friday's Northern California Division 4 Bowl the section commissioners will select teams today and is projected to win the school's first state championship.
The Raiders have been awarded state titles by CalHiSports, but they've never won a title on the field.
That's how Vega wants to end it.
"That's what we're all playing for," he said. "Talk about the dream, coming here and winning a state title. That's the perfect ending for us."