For Central Catholic, it’s getting to be business as usual. For Manteca High, it’s uncharted territory.
The Buffaloes and Raiders, winners of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 and 4 titles, respectively, have been chosen to play in CIF Northern California bowl games next weekend at Lincoln High’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium in Stockton.
Central Catholic (13-1), playing in the NorCal bowl for the second time in as many years, will take on Oakland’s McClymonds High (10-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. It’s a rematch of last season’s D4 game, which the Raiders won 42-12 at Spanos Stadium. The teams met again this regular season on Sept. 13 at Central’s David Patton Field and the Raiders came through with a 38-24 victory.
Manteca (13-1), meanwhile, is playing in the school’s first NorCal bowl and will face Enterprise (12-0) of Redding on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re really excited,” said Manteca coach Eric Reis. “This is a special honor and we’re definitely treating it like that.”
It was thought the Buffaloes would be on the outside looking in with respect to a NorCal bid in the crowded Division 3 field. But a near-perfect season and a record margin of victory against Sacramento in Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 championship game was enough to earn the nod.
To be eligible, teams had to win a section title. The selection was based on win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and common opponents.
Enterprise will have to make a 200-mile trip for the game, while the Buffaloes, coming off a 49-6 thrashing of Sacramento High in the section finale, will have to drive less than 30 minutes. On Friday, Manteca supporters traveled en masse to Stockton despite chilly, rainy conditions. The caravan to Stockton may be even bigger this week as the forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 40s at kickoff, with no rain expected.
Central Catholic also likes playing at Lincoln High. Not only did the Raiders enjoy plenty of support at Spanos Stadium, they also ran their record to a perfect 4-0 at the venue.
“We definitely like playing at Lincoln,” said Raiders coach Roger Canepa. “We’ve beat Brookside Christian, Escalon, McClymonds and Hilmar up there, so it’s a home away from home for us.”
Not only is Central Catholic comfortable playing at Lincoln High, they’re also pretty comfortable facing McClymonds, which hasn’t played since Nov. 29 and hasn’t faced a team other than Oakland or Oakland Tech since Nov. 1. The Warriors closed out Oakland Athletic League play against Oakland and Tech, then faced them again in their two playoff victories.
“We’ve seen all different kinds of teams,” said Canepa of the Raiders’ opponents in the last six weeks. “But they’ve got a good team. We’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us.”
The Buffaloes figure to be at least a little familiar with Enterprise.
Valley Oak League rival Oakdale was Enterprise’s first opponent this season, and the Hornets narrowly won, 23-22.
“I actually talked to Coach (Trent) Merzon at the Hilmar-Central game on Saturday and he says they’re extremely well-coached, physical and they don’t make mistakes,” Reis said. “We’re really excited; this is a special honor and we’re definitely going to treat it like that.”
Looking ahead another week, should the local teams advance to state bowls in Carson, Manteca would face the winner of the D2 SoCal game between Chaminade of West Hills (12-2) and Hart of Newhall (12-2).
Southern California’s D4 bowl is still a mystery. Christian High (El Cajon) is asking a San Diego Superior Court judge to rule on its request to play in the D4 game. As it stands, Christian won the San Diego Section’s D3 title and became eligible for a D2 bid.
However, because their enrollment is fewer than 500 students, the Patriots believe they should be eligible for the D4 bowl. A ruling is expected today.
According to Cal-Hi Sports, a Christian (12-1) vs. Bakersfield Christian (11-2) matchup makes the most sense. If Christian isn’t allowed to play, Los Angeles’ View Park Prep (13-0) should slide into the spot.