STOCKTON — Speed. It was the word Central Catholic High heard and feared all week as it prepared to play McClymonds High.
And yes, the Warriors from the Oakland Athletic League had every bit the speed that was feted on its résumé.
But, for the most part, so did the Raiders. Add power to that speed and you have the recipe for Friday's 42-12 thrashing of McClymonds in the first-ever NorCal Division 4 football championship game at Lincoln High.
"We knew they had a lot of speed, but we also have a lot of speed to go with our power," said Rey Vega, half of Central's unstoppable Rey and Ray running back tandem. "We've worked really hard for what we have, and we wanted to show them right from the start what we're about."
Vega did exactly that. He misplayed the opening kickoff before corralling the bouncing ball at the 15, then sprinted up the left sideline, right past the Warriors' bench for an 80-yard return.
One play later, Ray Lomas was in the end zone. Vega followed 73 seconds later with a score of his own following a turnover, and the rout was on.
Central Catholic, which in 2007 was the first school to represent the Stanislaus District in a state bowl game, will be the first to make a repeat appearance, as well as the first to win a formal regional title.
This time, the Raiders (13-2) will travel to Carson's Home Depot Center for a 4 p.m. game Friday against Santa Fe Christian (11-3), which earned its spot on Friday by beating Rio Hondo Prep 30-28.
"We get to go to a bowl," said Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa. "I never thought I'd have the chance to coach in a bowl, but if I'm going to go to battle I'm glad it's with this team."
Canepa, who took over the Raiders' program the year following their bowl appearance, said he was nervous heading into Friday's game.
In addition to the speed so evident on the McClymonds game tape, he was worried about his own club, which was coming on an emotionally charged and near-perfect performance against Escalon in Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section title game.
"I was more worried about a letdown because I don't think we could have played any better than we did last week," Canepa said. "We were hitting on all cylinders. But even when we sputter a little, we're still able to bang."
Central took a 21-0 lead on its seventh play from scrimmage when quarterback Garrett Ardis hit tight end John Mundt on a nifty post route from 40 yards out.
"I just took my three steps into the defense before finding the open area and Garrett did a good job of reading me," Mundt said. "I caught the ball and just took off."
If McClymonds was going to get back into the game, it would have to be via the air, putting all the weight on senior quarterback Keith Williams.
Despite being a very slender 6-footer, Williams has one of the best arms in Northern California, and he hit Lavon Washington on a fly pattern in stride up the left sideline for 45 yards and a first down at the Central Catholic 5.
The Warriors, after a 1-yard run and an incomplete pass, tried a fade pattern into the right corner. The ball was underthrown and picked off by Nate Loya, who returned the ball to the Raiders' 8.
Seven bruising running plays later, Lomas sporting a No. 11 jersey after his No. 4 was torn bulled into the end zone from the 3, and Central had a 28-0 halftime lead.
"We were worried about the speed all week," Lomas said. "We came out just wanting to take the game right to them."
Lomas, who finished with 136 yards on 13 carries, scored on a 42-yard run and Vega, who added 122 yards on 18 carries, added a 3-yard run for a 42-0 lead with 4:23 remaining in the third quarter.
That was enough for McClymonds coach Curtis McCauley, who agreed to play with a running clock the rest of the way.
"We're a young team and tonight we played our age, and picked a bad time to do that," McCauley said. "Hats off to Central Catholic because that's a great football team and definitely the better team today, but we couldn't put it together and we couldn't afford to make the mistakes we did."
Williams showed off his arm in the fourth, throwing for 148 yards and two scores against the Raiders' second-team defensive backfield, but Central Catholic's goal at that point was to win and to stay healthy.
It still has one more game to play and on Friday in Carson will become the first team in Stanislaus District history to tee it up for a 16th game.
"It feels great to be the first team to win a NorCal title," Lomas said. "It makes this a long season, but it's all worth it. It's crazy to play 16 games. We're lucky to have all our guys healthy, and we're really blessed in that way."
Northern California Division 4 Bowl
at Lincoln High-Stockton
Central Catholic 42, McClymonds 12
McClymonds 0 0 0 12 12
Central Cath 21 7 14 0 42
CCRay Lomas 2 run (Kenny Smart kick)
CCRey Vega 8 run (Smart kick)
CCJohn Mundt 40 pass from Garrett Ardis (Smart kick)
CCLomas 3 run (Smart kick)
Third QuarterCCLomas 49 run (Smart)
CCVega 3 run (Smart kick)
MYusef Sterling-Low 17 pass from Keith Williams (pass failed)
MLaron Washington 95 pass from Williams (pass failed)
MVP: CC's Ray Lomas, who carried the offense the first six weeks, looked fresh with 13 carries for 136 yards and three TDs. He had 82 yards in the first half, capping his night with a 49-yard TD run. Offensive MVP: CC's Rey Vega, who arrived in Week 7 and had split carries with Lomas since, continued his remarkable season with 18 carries, 122 yards and two TDs. He returned the opening kickoff 80 yards, after bobbling the ball, and scored CC's second TD.
Defensive MVP: CC's Nate Loya, who led a defense that stymied McClymonds' plan of going for the big play. He intercepted a pass in the end zone, snaring a fade intended for the corner, to set up a 92-yard scoring drive that put CC up 28-0. It wasn't until the subs came in that CC began to give up yards.
Decision of the game: McClymonds won the opening toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving CC the ball first. Big mistake. Vega returned the kickoff to the 5 to trigger a 21-point first-quarter run, capped by tight end John Mundt's 40-yard TD catch.
Mistake of the game: CC QB Garrett Ardis had Mundt open down the middle for a TD in the second half, but floated a pass that the safety ran over to get. It was the second interception for Ardis, who struggled to get the ball downfield. The poor passes played a role in CC's commitment to the run.
Stat of the game: Lomas and Vega combined for 31 carries, 258 yards and five TDs in a NorCal Bowl versus a 9-3 McClymonds team that had shut out half its foes. It's the seventh time in nine games the two have run for at least 100 yards each.