Central Catholic's Blands carrying on family tradition

jcortez@modbee.comDecember 11, 2013 

  • High School Football State Playoff Pairings OPEN DIVISION

    North: Folsom (14-0, 5-0) vs. De La Salle (13-0) at Diablo Valley College - Saturday at 7:30p.m.

    South: Centennial, Corona (12-2, 5-0) vs. St. John Bosco (14-0, 5-0) at Cerritos College - Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

    DIVISION 1

    North: Del Oro (12-2, 5-0) vs. Serra, San Mateo (11-2, 6-0) at San Jose City College – Friday at 7:30p.m.

    South: Bakersfield (11-2, 5-0) vs. Mission Hills (12-1, 3-1) at Mission Hills HS (San Marcos) – Friday at 7:30 p.m.

    DIVISION 2

    North: Manteca (13-1, 7-0) vs. Enterprise (12-0, 6-0) at Lincoln HS (Stockton) – Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

    South: Chaminade (12-2, 4-1) vs. Hart (12-2, 3-2) at College of the Canyons – Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

    DIVISION 3

    North: Sacred Heart Prep (12-1, 4-1) vs. El Cerrito (12-2, 6-0) at De Anza HS (Richmond) – Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

    South: Nordhoff (13-1, 3-1) vs. Corona del Mar (14-0, 5-0) at Orange Coast College – Saturday at 7:30p.m.

    DIVISION 4

    North: McClymonds (10-2, 5-0) vs. Central Catholic (13-1, 6-0) at Lincoln HS (Stockton) – Friday at 7:30p.m.

    South: View Park (13-0, 3-0) vs. Bakersfield Christian (11-2, 6-0) at Centennial HS (Bakersfield) – Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Reggie Bland is a tough assignment for a reporter.

He’s congenial and greets you with a warm smile, but his quiet nature doesn’t help fill the notebook.

“Reggie hardly says anything,” explains Central Catholic running backs coach Deonce Whitaker. “If you get him to say two words, you’ve accomplished something.”

Then, there’s the fact that the senior two-way star comes from a long line of football-playing Blands.

Reggie’s older brother is Louis III, a two-time Modesto Bee Player of the Year and a three-time state wrestling champ. His younger brother is Montell, who’s made an impact on Central Catholic’s varsity this year as a freshman. His father, Louis Bland Jr., and uncles Maurice and Dwight Bland, played football and wrestled at city schools in the 1980s.

“In all my time at Modesto High, I just wanted to win one playoff game,” said Louis Bland Jr., who never did get that victory. “My sons have combined to win seven section titles. That just amazes me.”

Cousin Freddy Bland starred at Merced High, and later Modesto Junior College, and was The Bee’s Player of the Year in 1993; cousin Dion Bland also starred at Merced; and cousin T.J. Beltan took over at tailback for CC after Louis graduated in 2008.

So, you can see how a reporter might get mixed up and refer to Reggie by a name other than his own – just like this reporter did just a few weeks ago.

“That’s all right,” says Bland, in a voice barely above a whisper. “I’m used to it.”

What he’s not used to is losing, and that’s what makes him a coach’s dream.

In two years as a varsity player, the fullback-linebacker has a record of 27-3 with two section titles and a state championship to his credit. Friday night, he and his teammates will take on McClymonds (Oakland) in the CIF Division 4 Northern California title game, a rematch of last year’s NorCal bowl. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln High in Stockton.

“Reggie brings quiet leadership to this team,” says head coach Roger Canepa, attempting to become the first Stanislaus District coach to guide his team to back-to-back state bowls. “He doesn’t say much, he just gets the job done. He’s a guy that you know is always going to be there.”

Like the night earlier this year when the Raiders very nearly blew a 21-point lead against Western Athletic Conference foe Pacheco. With 2,000-yard tailback Matt Ringer hobbled by an ankle injury, Montell came in and rushed for 194 yards on 33 carries – in his fourth varsity game, against one of the best defenses in the league.

“It takes a special kind of kid to actually step up and play at this level as a freshman,” says Whitaker. “He just got done playing Pop Warner a year ago.”

But late in the game, Canepa needed senior leadership to finish the job.

He was more comfortable giving the ball to Reggie, even though Reggie’s hand was swollen from getting it smashed earlier in the game.

“I told him, ‘Hey, Reg, we’re in a game here, buddy,’” recalls Canepa. “Even with a bad hand, and the fact he hadn’t played tailback all year, we shoved it in there about nine times in a row. That’s the kind of kid he is.”

But, Montell got the headlines. And he has yet to lose in his varsity career.

Following the Raiders’ lone loss this season to St. Mary’s, a 47-27 setback in Stockton, Canepa was so upset with his defense that he decided to hold a blocking-tackling drill with the junior varsity.

“Montell made the first hit and I yelled, ‘Well, there’s one varsity player,’ ” remembers Canepa. “We spent two hours on defense that day and I figured whoever we didn’t kill would be ready to play defense.”

That meant his first varsity game would be against 2012 Division 4 NorCal runner-up McClymonds, one of the fastest teams in this half of the state.

“I was pretty nervous before my first game,” says Montell, who’s 12-0 as a varsity player. “After the first hit, it all went away and I just started playing football again.”

While the Bland brothers are supportive of one another, make no mistake, they’re competitive.

Just before the end of Tuesday’s interview in Canepa’s office, Reggie is asked for his height and weight.

“Five-nine and a half, 200 pounds,” Reggie replies.

Montell gives his dimensions as 5-10, 180. Before the interview wraps up, Reggie changes his mind.

“I’m 5-10, too,” he interjects.

“Is that half an inch important?” he’s asked

“Yeah.”

Competing for inches. It’s what football’s all about.

Bee staff writer Joe Cortez can be reached at jcortez@modbee.com or (209) 578-2380. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeePreps.

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