Central Catholic runs away with state championship

bvanderbeek@modbee.comDecember 15, 2012 

— The Central Catholic High gym is so small, the 16 Sac-Joaquin Section football championship banners on display qualifies as wallpaper.

Yes, it’s the most honored and the most storied program in the section. But until Friday the Raiders were not able to claim as their own the two words that help define the elite programs in California.

State Champion.

In a game that was decided within minutes of the opening kickoff, the Raiders ran, ran and ran some more to a 66-7 victory over Santa Fe Christian that stands alone as the most one-sided game in state bowl game history.

With the victory came the state Division 4 championship, allowing the Raiders to stand alongside once and future small-school rivals Modesto Christian (2009) and Escalon (2010) as state titlists from the Stanislaus District.

“It’s great to be a part of history and to do something no one has ever done before, especially with my senior class,” said running back Ray Lomas, one-half of the Ray and Rey running backs tandem that helped to rewrite the state bowl record book.

In addition to the 59-point victory, Central set an all-bowls record for points scored, and can lay claim to Division 4 marks for rushing yards (521) and total yards (577).

And while Lomas ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns, Rey Vega needed only six carries to score four touchdowns and gain a bowl-record 202 yards. The record he broke was the 196 yards gained by Central’s Louis Bland in the Raiders’ 2007 bowl loss.

All of the above was accomplished despite Santa Fe Christian and Central Catholic agreeing to play the entire second half with a running clock following a 59-7 halftime score.

Yes, in a game pitting two parochial schools, this was a mismatch of Biblical proportion.

“I never thought we’d get 66,” said Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa. “We played a tough schedule and we got better and better, and we willed ourselves to get even better every week. If we had a game next week, we’d get even better yet.”

The Raiders’ run to the title backs Canepa’s claim. In six postseason games Central outscored its opponents 297-83. Its closest game was a section second-round 40-21 victory at Ripon in a game it trailed 21-17 at halftime.

After less than five minutes, it was difficult to imagine this Raiders’ team trailing any school of proportionate size. That’s how long it took Central Catholic to establish complete control.

Its opening drive was a seven-play, 75-yard bit of punishment that was Lomas left, Lomas right, Lomas into the end zone from 4 yards out.

Then it was Vega’s turn, and he needed but one carry to go 60 yards for a 14-0 lead just four minutes, 25 seconds into the game.

The drives were different in numbers yet identical in form. No matter whether in front of Lomas or Vega, Central Catholic’s offensive line was blowing the Eagles four or five yards backward on every running play.

“We never know if the other team is going to give their ‘A’ game, but we’re always going to give ours, and tonight all our hard work paid off,” Vega said. “There was a lot of good blocking going on in front of me. They’re in the weight room all the time and that strength showed tonight.”

After control was established, the onslaught ensued. Before 10 minutes had clicked off the clock, both Lomas and Vega were over 100 yards.

Central led 28-0 after the first quarter and had a 243-31 offensive advantage. It was 59-7 at halftime and the Raiders were looking for ways to get everybody on the roster involved in the action.

It meant throwing the ball, if only to give University of Oregon-bound tight end John Mundt a chance to catch a pass. He did, and it went for 42 yards to set up a score.

But mostly, Mundt’s job on offense was to make room for Lomas and Vega, a task he and his teammates on the offensive line did with brutal efficiency on nearly every snap.

“Our goal was to move their line and get some room for our backs,” Mundt said. “We worked well as a unit and we couldn’t have done it much better. I was surprised at the score, but we are a big and physical team.”

So let the comparisons begin. Is this 14-2 Central Catholic team better than the 2007 team that lost its state bowl game? How does it compare to any of the teams that played during the program’s 61-game win streak that ended in 2006?

Let the Central Catholic alums ponder those questions because one thing is certain: the Raiders will be coming home today with the school’s first state championship trophy. Their gym might not hold it.

“It’s a real blessing,” Vega said. “We came down here and now we’re state champions and nothing could be better.”

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or (209) 578-2150. Follow him at twitter.com/modestobeek.

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