Central Catholic head coach Roger Canepa was looking for a layup. What he got instead was more akin to a half-court shot.
After agreeing to play national powerhouse De La Salle next season in a home-and-home arrangement, Canepa and the Raiders still were in the market for an opening-week opponent that would ready his team for the Spartans on Aug. 24, but not test the squad too severely.
Instead, Central Catholic filled its season-opening slot on Thursday with powerful Clovis West, winner of nine Central Section Division I championships since 1985, the last by Modesto Christian coach Mike Parsons in 2010, who guided the Golden Eagles from 2010 to 2013.
Contracts for the home-and-home series were finalized Thursday.
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“We had a couple of others, but thought this was the best fit, to be honest with you,” said Canepa, who is 114-24 in 10 seasons as the Raiders’ head coach. “We’ve already got a bunch of quality teams on the schedule, what’s one more?”
Clovis West finished the 2017 season 9-3, lost 38-28 to Buchanan in the section D-I semifinals and ended the year ranked No. 66 in the state by MaxPreps.com. By comparison, Central Catholic was ranked 54th in the same poll, Valley Oak league foes Manteca and Oakdale were ranked 47th and 48th respectively. Del Oro, the team that knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs, was 60th, while St. Mary’s, a team that Central Catholic beat early in the season, finished 25th.
Clovis West adds to Central Catholic’s already formidable preseason schedule, one of the most difficult ever assembled in the Stanislaus District.
After traveling to Fresno Aug. 17 to face the Golden Eagles and to Concord on Aug. 24 to battle with De La Salle, the Raiders return to David Patton Field to take on St. Mary’s (Stockton) and Lincoln (Stockton), the largest school in the Sac-Joaquin Section, and then open Valley Oak League play with Manteca, a two-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section champion. And, of course, the Raiders close the season against archrival Oakdale, which has played in seven of the last eight D-III finals, winning three.
“I’ve never heard of a schedule like this,” said Sac-Joaquin Section assistant commissioner Will DeBoard. “It’s crazy how difficult that schedule is going to be.”
And, just for good measure, Central Catholic has added Turlock High, the two-time reigning Central California Conference champion, to its scrimmage schedule the week before the season opener.
“They were looking for a scrimmage and they called me,” said Canepa. “They’re a good team, a quality football program and we get another quality team at the scrimmage.
“I’m just happy the schedule’s done.”
Calaveras and Buhach Colony, both playoff teams from last year, also will participate in the Central Catholic scrimmage.
“It’s go time. Let’s play some football.”
The timing of Central Catholic’s revamped schedule dovetails nicely with a proposal that would establish 12-team brackets for divisions I through VI, rewarding the top four seeds with first-round byes. The proposal would reward teams for playing tough preseason schedules, as opposed to stockpiling wins against inferior opponents.