Reggie Bland is a tough assignment for a reporter.
Hes congenial and greets you with a warm smile, but his quiet nature doesnt help fill the notebook.
Reggie hardly says anything, explains Central Catholic running backs coach Deonce Whitaker. If you get him to say two words, youve accomplished something.
Then, theres the fact that the senior two-way star comes from a long line of football-playing Blands.
Reggies 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, whos made an impact on Central Catholics 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 Bees 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.
Thats all right, says Bland, in a voice barely above a whisper. Im used to it.
What hes not used to is losing, and thats what makes him a coachs 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 years 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 doesnt say much, he just gets the job done. Hes 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 Reggies hand was swollen from getting it smashed earlier in the game.
I told him, Hey, Reg, were in a game here, buddy, recalls Canepa. Even with a bad hand, and the fact he hadnt played tailback all year, we shoved it in there about nine times in a row. Thats 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. Marys, 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, theres one varsity player, remembers Canepa. We spent two hours on defense that day and I figured whoever we didnt 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, whos 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, theyre competitive.
Just before the end of Tuesdays interview in Canepas 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.
Im 5-10, too, he interjects.
Is that half an inch important? hes asked
Competing for inches. Its what footballs all about.