Bland Brothers spice up Central Catholic offense in bowl victory

bvanderbeek@modbee.comDecember 20, 2013 

— Central Catholic rolled to the Division 4 state bowl championship in 2012 on the power of the Ray and Rey show – the unstoppable running back tandem of Ray Lomas and Rey Vega.

On Friday, the Raiders repeated with another backfield double-shot: the Brothers Bland.

With leading rusher Matt Ringer sidelined by a deep thigh bruise, senior Reggie Bland and freshman Montell Bland ran for 191 of Central Catholic’s 240 total yards in the 36-23 victory over Bakersfield Christian.

Montell ran for 103 yards on 17 carries and scored twice while Reggie added 88 yards on 17 carries and also reached the end zone as the Raiders’ running game brought order to a game that otherwise could have been controlled by the high-flying Eagles’ passing game.

Montell had the highlight reel play of the game, a 26-yard scoring run in which he broke six tackles to give the Raiders a 22-14 lead with 5:34 left in the third quarter.

“I don’t remember much about the play,” Montell said. “I just remember looking up at the 5 and seeing the pylon and telling myself that I could get there – I had to get there, whatever it took.”

The brothers found out early in the week that they were going to be carrying the offensive load. Ringer’s injury –suffered in last weekend’s NorCal bowl victory over McClymonds – was too much for even a back of his grit to overcome.

“We both knew we were going to have to step up because Matt’s a big key to our team,” Reggie Bland said. “With him in there it would have been an even better game for all of us.”

The Blands’ role in this game came six years after big brother Louis Bland Jr. was the best player on the field in Central Catholic’s loss to St. Bonaventure in what then was the small-schools bowl.

Louis, who played at Washington State and now works as an academic advisor for the Weber State football team, carried 24 times in that game for 196 yards, and also was a stalwart on defense.

“Back then it was a fun night being here watching my older brother try to get a state title,” Reggie Bland said. “They lost that game, too bad, but it feels good now to win tonight.”

Louis Bland missed last year’s bowl win, but was in attendance at the StubHub Center on Friday, as was Louis Sr.

“It’s a feeling you can’t describe just being able to watch my little brothers achieve so much,” Louis said. “When I walked in here, all of it came back. I looked down at the field and smelled the fresh grass. It brought back a lot of memories. I miss football a lot.”

And the Bland family also seems to miss Louis’ name in the Stanislaus District record book. He left Central Catholic as the District’s all-time career rusher with 5,140 yards, despite often carrying the ball less than a dozen times per game in the Raiders’ balanced offense.

His career mark was surpassed this year by both Ja’Quan Gardner of Central Valley and Andrew Brown of Ripon Christian, with Gardner the record-holder at 6,014.

But with current Raiders coach Roger Canepa much more of a run-oriented coach than was Central Catholic legend Mike Glines – whose last game was that 2007 bowl loss –Montell, who gained 490 yards this season, could be in for a very busy three more years in the backfield.

“I think Montell will be getting a lot of carries – at least 20 a game, or something I never saw,” Louis said. “He’s definitely going to bring that rushing record back into the family. I have no doubt about that.”

And then there’s the matter of state football championship rings. Reggie has two, Montell one. Louis is ringless.

Would one of the brothers consider giving big bro a title ring?

“I could think about it,” said Reggie with a no-way look on his face.

“Don’t look at me,” Montell said, glancing at Reggie. “He has two rings, so it would have to be him.”

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or at (209) 578-2150. Follow him on Twitter @modestobeek.

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