The Central Catholic High Raiders don't often start 0-2, but they're slowly climbing back into their comfort zone.
Running back Craig Jones pounded for two touchdowns and also caught a conversion pass, more than enough for the Raiders' convincing 21-6 win Friday night over Johansen. Central (2-2) showed a crowd of about 1,500 at Dan Gonsalves Stadium that it has set aside its opening losses to Cardinal Newman and St. Mary's.
But coach Roger Canepa wasn't totally happy, not after CC frittered away three scoring chances inside the Johansen 5-yard line.
"We just can't finish," he said. "We played alright but we're not there yet."
Central, hardened by those early losses, controlled the game with a balanced offense that outgained Johansen 379-227. Jones, spinning and driving his legs in traffic, stretched the ball over the goal line to cap his 12-yard touchdown run that gave the Raiders a 14-0 lead during the third quarter.
Less than three minutes later, quarterback Chris Sauls faked a handoff and passed long to Billy Flamion. The Raiders' multi-sport star pulled the ball in at midfield and outran the Vikings to complete the 75-yard touchdown.
"We're starting to progress," Flamion (five receptions, 122 yards) said. "We didn't blow any coverages on defense tonight. We're young and getting better."
Johansen (1-4) couldn't fully mobilize quarterback Armando Hernandez and receiver Michael Brown, the Vikings' potent pass-catch tandem. Brown, a quick 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds, caught eight passes for 118 yards, but he was shadowed effectively in man coverage most of the night by CC senior Jack Killian.
Killian, who intercepted a pass during the first half, wasn't the defender beaten on Brown's 42-yard TD reception with 2:42 left.
"He (Brown) was aggressive and very fast," said Killian about Brown, who had accounted for eight touchdowns the first three games. "I practiced what the coaches taught me and stayed on his hip."
Hernandez completed 11 of 23 for 153 yards but wasn't helped by a rushing attack that managed only 74 yards.
"Central is a heck of a team," said Johansen coach Jason McCoy, whose Vikings open Modesto Metro Conference action with their homecoming game against Modesto in two weeks. "We're 1-4, but it's a fresh start and we're hungry to compete for an MMC championship."
Central Catholic carried some frustration into the halftime break. The Raiders opened the game with a well-conceived drive that reached the Johansen 4, but they squandered the chance via a fumble for a major loss. On fourth down from the 8, Sauls' pass to Killian in the end zone was too high.
A poor punt moments later put CC back in business at the Johansen 21. Seven plays later from the 9, Jones (15 carries, 61 yards) slashed off right guard 9 yards and into the end zone. On the conversion, the Raiders faked the kick and connected for 2, thanks to a pass from holder Dominick Ciccarelli -- the backup quarterback -- to a very alone Jones.
Late in the half after another long march, the Raiders reached to within a foot of the goal line. A costly delay penalty was followed by a nifty interception in the end zone by Brown, who returned it to the Johansen 14.
The Vikings did not penetrate the CC 24-yard line until their late touchdown to Brown.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.