STOCKTON – — After the Central Catholic defense came up with a big stop in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, the Raiders were pinned at their own 3-yard line.
With 7 minutes and 51 seconds left in the game, Central Catholic turned to their offensive line and running back Matt Ringer to chew time off the clock.
“Every time I came to the huddle I heard toss right and toss left,” said Ringer, who finished with 243 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
Central Catholic went to the ground on their next 13 plays with all 13 going to Ringer as they put away a 24-10 win over Hilmar in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship game at Stockton’s Lincoln High on Saturday.
Ringer will be the first to credit his offensive line for all his success.
The quintet of Spencer Stark, Ivan Swalve, Jonah Friedrich, A.J. Contreras and Travis Gist average 6-foot-2 and 253 pounds across the line.
“They are unbelievable. Four of the five guys have a higher GPA than me,” said Ringer, who has a 3.5 GPA. “They’ve been with me in the weight room getting ready for the season. They are all hard workers and they’re all really smart.”
The Yellowjackets (12-1) had a tough time against the Raiders’ massive line. After Hilmar forced a three-and-out on Central Catholic’s opening possession, the Raiders’ line gashed the Yellowjackets, paving the way for four straight scoring drives en route to a 24-3 halftime lead.
“Ringer is a great back but that offensive line is outstanding,” Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said. “Their blocking schemes are great. Ringer is a good back but you have to give that offensive line credit. Not only are they big, but they’re really good. They’re very physical and do a great job of blocking.”
The line had to make some adjustments early to adjust to the speed of Hilmar’s defensive line. With the Yellowjackets loading the box, Central Catholic had success running off tackle.
“We knew they were fast, we just had to get a body on a body no matter what they did,” Stark said. “We just couldn’t afford to be running by people.”
Said Freiderch: “We have a lot chemistry out there. Sometimes we don’t even have to make a call. We just adjust to the way the defense lines up. We’ll come to the sideline and tell coach how the defense is lining up and he’ll just tell us to make the adjustments.”
Central Catholic head coach Roger Canepa has leaned on his line all year. So it’s no surprise when it came time to put the game away he asked them to lead the way.
“All year they’ve been doing a good job,” Canepa said. “Matt is a great running back, too, but you’re only as good as your line. It makes it easy for the head coach. I think I’m the dumbest one of the bunch. They’re all smarter than their coach. I had about a 2.5 GPA. They’re telling me what’s going on.”
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.