Central Catholic's Matt Ringer has been dealt the Stanislaus District's most difficult hand. He must succeed the Ray & Rey Show.
He's doing it his way. So far, so good.
"I try to find the hole and power through and make first downs," said the Raiders' hydrant-like 210-pound running back. "Ray (Lomas) was so shifty and Rey (Vega) was so explosive. I'm trying to find my balance between them."
Ringer doesn't possess the raw talent of the pair that carried Central Catholic to the state Division 4 title last year. What he has, however, is power and patience. The senior has waited his turn, and this season is his reward.
All Ringer did Friday night was punish the Downey Knights for 156 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, giving him 730 yards and 12 touchdowns overall. Everything else from Central Catholic's efficient homecoming 38-0 win at Patton Field sprouted from him.
Within the season's first month, the Raiders (3-1) already have beaten the only two teams who beat them a year ago. And both were thumped emphatically.
Downey (2-2) suffered turnovers on two of its first three possessions and trailed 14-0 less than six minutes after the opening kickoff. The Raider defense collected six sacks, intercepted three passes and limited the Knights' spread attack to only 11 completed passes in 31 attempts.
"I can't remember us ever getting shut out," said Jeremy Plaa, in his eighth season as Downey coach. "We knew Ringer was the guy we had to stop. Our defense actually did better than our offense."
Besides Ringer, no one enjoyed a better night than the Raiders' Reggie Bland. Not only was he crowned homecoming king before kickoff, the fullback-linebacker also scored touchdowns on both sides of the ball.
Bland, sensing a screen pass early in the second half, stepped in front of P.J. Wilson's pass, angled to his right and finished off the 41-yard pick-6.
"It was a special night," Bland said. "Exciting."
To no one's surprise, Central Catholic had not forgotten its 45-42 loss to Downey a year ago this week.
"Last year was such a heartbreak. We definitely had a chip on our shoulders," Ringer said. "We had a fire in our guts."
Ringer often pounds to the right behind guard Ivan Swalve and tackle Spencer Stark. Regardless, he stays busy. CC marched 69 yards in nine plays, seven of them handoffs to Ringer, and he finished if off from 3 yards for the Raiders' third TD.
Lefty quarterback Donovin Townsend kept Downey honest by hitting nine of 16 passes for 130 yards. He pump-faked and froze the Downey corner, then lofted a soft 20-yard pass to Nic Navarro who put Central Catholic ahead 14-0.
Senior kicker Kenny Smart, a major weapon this season, hit all five conversions, booted a 31-yard field goal and sent kickoffs through the end zone.
It all resulted in a low-stress night for CC coach Roger Canepa.
"We saw three spread teams before tonight. We were dialed in," he said. "We figured out before the season that 3-1 is where we had to be."
With help from the successor to Ray & Rey.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.