At first glance, it would appear that Central Catholic has an easy path to a second consecutive CIF state title game next week in Carson.
The Raiders (13-1) will face McClymonds (Oakland) in Friday night’s CIF Northern California bowl at Stockton’s Lincoln High School.
It’ll be the third time in the past 12 months that the Raiders and Warriors have squared off, and the Raiders have won both – in last December’s NorCal bowl (a 42-12 Central victory) and again three months ago at David Patton Field (a 38-24 Raiders win).
But Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa knows nothing comes easy at this time of year.
“I get scared every week, but this team really scares me,” said Canepa.
How scary is McClymonds?
Well, consider this: Two weeks after losing to Central Catholic, McClymonds hosted Menlo High and found themselves down 40-12 with just over 9 minutes to play. In a span of about 6 minutes the Warriors scored four touchdowns to tie the game 40-40. They eventually lost on a late touchdown, but it just proves how explosive they can be.
So even though the Raiders seem to have the Warriors’ number, this is no time to get complacent.
“We had a 15-minute talk with the players on that very subject,” said Canepa. “The good thing is we were down 18-14 in the third quarter last time. Now, we eventually won by 14 but that’s not a lot.
“We mishandled a punt that they recovered but was negated by a penalty and they had a pick-six called back by another penalty. If not for the penalties, that game is tight.”
Perhaps one thing working against McClymonds is its lack of top-tier competition. Since the Menlo game, the Warriors haven’t faced a team that finished with a winning record. Even their two playoff opponents were well under .500.
In fact, McClymonds hasn’t faced a team other than Oakland or Oakland Tech – they were the Warriors’ last two regular-season opponents as well as their playoff foes – since a 60-0 thumping of a winless Castlemont squad on Nov. 1.
But the one thing the Warriors have going for them is speed, even if they have less than 25 players on the roster.
Running back Lavance Warren and safety/receiver Lavon Washington, who has committed to the University of Washington, are the main threats, but receiver Louis White, running back Marcel Jackson and quarterback Emoni Fountain also are dangerous.
The Warriors have given up just 46 points in their last seven games.
“We moved some guys around between the linebacker and safety positions, and the unit has really stepped it up and responded,” coach Michael Peters told the Bay Area News Group prior to their 44-16 Oakland Section championship victory over Oakland two weeks ago.
“In the big picture, which we’re really not supposed to look at during the season, that was a scary game for us in September,” said Canepa, who prefers his team take a week-by-week approach. “If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t have scheduled them. If we’d have lost that game, we probably don’t make it back to this point.”