STOCKTON — Nate Loya knew he would be giving up four or five inches to some of the receivers he'd face Friday.
McClymonds of Oakland, a big-play team with big receivers, wanted to exploit its advantage by keeping its receivers running downfield and throwing passes high.
But Loya and his teammates in the Central Catholic secondary were ready for that ploy.
"We worked this week on getting our hands on them at the line, disrupting their plays, messing with timing routes," said Loya, an offensive star in last week's 52-10 win over Escalon in the section final.
"McClymonds' receivers, if you let them get off the line too quickly, you won't be catching up to them," Loya said.
Loya didn't have to worry so much about speed in the second quarter, when McClymonds had the ball at Central Catholic's 5. The Warriors had tried to beat the Raiders with a slant on the previous play, but the ball was batted down.
They followed with a fade in the right corner, when a TD would have cut the Raiders' lead to 21-7. But Loya used technique to ruin the play. He re-directed the receiver 4 inches taller off the line, positioning himself between quarterback Keith Williams and a receiver.
That allowed Loya to grab the ball on the goal line. It was his fourth pick of the season, and proved to be crucial as the Raiders rolled 92 yards for a touchdown that extended their lead to 28-0.
Central Catholic, after going up 21-0 in the opening minutes, eventually capped a 42-12 rout of McClymonds.
The Raiders (13-2) face Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach (11-3) for the Division 4 state title Friday in Carson.
Loya's play is one of the many reasons the Raiders will be playing for the state crown.
"After the slant failed, I expected they'd come with the fade," Loya said. "The fade is a good call for a receiver with a height advantage."
McClymonds' only shot at victory was throwing over the top of Central Catholic's physical front seven. The defensive line, led by John Mundt and Terrell Elder, had Williams on the run much of the night.
It helped the secondary to have Williams too busy looking for an avenue of escape to give his full attention to choosing from among his array of receivers running routes downfield. He's got a slingshot arm, though, and a few of his early deep throws got the attention of the defense.
Only two were completed, and a series of drops mixed with a few poor throws kept McClymonds' offense quiet.
"Nate had his hand on the receiver's hip, fine technique there. He stayed right with him," said secondary coach Myron Larson, whose unit gave up 48 passing yards in the first half. "We thought they'd come at us with more multiple-receiver sets ... going downfield."
That might have been the plan, but the pass rush from Mundt, Elder and the others forced the Warriors to alter their plans. They had to try to run the ball to get the pass rush off Williams, but that made things worse.
Unable to run, Williams found himself at the mercy of the rush on third down. Far too often, he was then forced to stand in the pocket and look desperately downfield trying to pick up 10 or 15 yards.
"It was 52-10 against Escalon last week, 42-12 here," said Loya, whose club will become the first Stanislaus District team to play 16 games in a season. "We're ready for one more game."