Ray Lomas' eyes have never left the prize. Not when shredding defenses the first six weeks of the season. And not when he started sharing carries with Rey Vega.
"The state title. That's the prize we want. Two more wins and we get that," said Central Catholic's 5-foot-8, 180-pound tailback. "That is the priority for all that we do."
Lomas' willingness to rotate carries with Vega the big-play back who had transferred from Davis after gaining 3,500 yards and 42 TDs in two years has been crucial to the Raiders' pursuit.
"It's great being the back, but you get worn down over time," said Lomas, who had four games with 18 or more carries the first six weeks.He had one game with more than 14 carries in the last eight weeks, which explains why Lomas has a fresh look.
"I love watching Ray run, the way he jukes a defender, the way he's able to keep his balance," said Vega, a speed back compared to the physical style Lomas prefers. "He won't let one guy tackle him Ray will bust out of it."
Lomas says his low center of gravity keeps him mobile when defenders try to take out his legs. He fends them off with a hand, while the other is clutching the ball.
While Vega gets the pretty plays a quick toss off tackle or a wide sweep Lomas usually is running between the guards and taking hits. As a rule, he ricochets off one or two before enough arms can grab on and take him down.
"We soften up the defense early, then Rey comes with his speed and that's the end of it," said Lomas, who has 1,765 yards and 28 TDs this season and has wrestled in the state tournament the last two seasons. "I'm a wrestler. I'm used to guys taking shots at my legs, so I run the ball the same way.
"If I'm hit, I try to spin out of it. If I see him coming, I'll use a little juke. I'm not fast like Rey, but I'm no turtle. I can make people miss, too."
The Ray & Rey show will make its ninth appearance tonight, as the Raiders (12-2) battle McClymonds (9-3) in the NorCal Division 4 Bowl at Lincoln High in Stockton.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.,and it could be the first time folks get a chance to watch Vega. He has returned three kickoffs for TDs in eight games.
While Vega is the big-play specialist he had TD runs of 26, 54 and 83 yards in Saturday's section-final win Lomas' role is increasing in importance in the playoffs.
"We're facing some better defenses, and a team has to be able to strike fast and put together drives," Vega said.
Vega's run for 1,200 yards and 22 TDs he has another receiving score to give him 26 total after sitting six weeks due to his transfer.
Like Lomas, Vega had become accustomed to shouldering a heavy load during his first two varsity years. His teams went 4-16, however, and Vega was a mystery to most outside of Modesto.
"Rey is somewhat off the radar when it comes to recruiting, but a run through the regional and state bowl games could bolster his stock," said Doug Benton, a recruiting analyst with NorCalPreps.com. "He is a physical runner who doesn't have much wasted movement in the backfield."
Both Central backs are getting attention from colleges. UC Davis and the University of San Diego are looking at Lomas and Fresno State and Cal are among those watching Vega. Helping to attract colleges are their academic, as well as athletic, strengths: Vega has a 3.7 GPA, Lomas a 3.3.
"You're not being recruited if you don't have grades," said Vega, who has started playing the flute. "I'm a better running back than flute player, but I'm improving."
Rushing totals for Ray Lomas and Rey Vega in the eight game's since Vega's eligibility was restored:
Week 7: Lomas, 79 yards, 1 TD; Vega, 150/3
Week 8: Lomas, 107/3; Vega, 139/3
Week 9: Lomas, 64/1; Vega, 45/2
Week 10: Lomas, 106/1; Vega, 190/3
Week 11: Lomas, 136/3; Vega, 121/4
Week 12: Lomas, 115/1; Vega, 231/3
Week 13: Lomas, 122/3; Vega, 110/1
Week 14: Lomas, 115/2; Vega, 214/3
Totals: Lomas 844/15; Vegas 1,200/22
While the state CIF is showing little interest in the Northern California bowls, The Bee will aggressively cover the Division 2 and 4 bowls from all angles. Reporter Richard T. Estrada is going to provide live analysis and video highlights via Twitter from the field, as well as a story in the next day's paper. Reporter Brian VanderBeek will write the game story for each bowl. Coverage kicks off at 7 each night. Get connected via ModBeePreps Twitter or Modbee.com for in-game highlights.