An acrobatic catch in the first half and plain old hard running and defense in the second were all Central Catholic needed to wrap up the Holy Bowl.
Running back Kyle Jacklich had 173 and three touchdowns, doing most of the damage after he suffered a big hit on a kickoff return, and Minaya Olivo came up with the pivotal play of the game as the Raiders beat St. Mary’s 33-20 on Friday night at David Patton Field.
“We’re 2-1 and a lot of people thought we could be 0-3,” said Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa, alluding to his first two games against Clovis West (a win) and national power De La Salle (a loss). “With the schedule we have, I’ll take it.”
St. Mary’s entered the game coming off a 48-7 defeat against Pittsburg, which worried Canepa, who feared his team might be complacent and ready for a letdown.
And when the Rams drove 67 yards in four plays — capped by Tyrei Washington’s 41-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 59 seconds left in the half for a 20-13 lead, it appeared Canepa’s worst fears were coming true.
However, Jacklich had a big kickoff return that ended when he took a hard shot — and a personal foul call against St. Mary’s — that gave Central first down near midfield with 1:42 left.
The helmet-to-helmet collision, which flattened Jacklich, who popped back up, drew ahhs from the crowd and a little woofing.
It motivated Jacklich.
“I felt 100 percent after the hit, almost even more energized and ready to play,” he said. “That dirty hit did nothing but make me want to run harder.”
Later in the drive, on fourth down, quarterback Dalton Durossette hit Dawson Perry on a screen for 12 yards for a first-and-10 on St. Mary’s 31.
After a short run, Durossette threw a fade route to the left corner in the vicinity of Olivo, who was covered by two St. Mary’s players. Olivo came back to the ball as the two Ram players crashed into him. They knocked the ball up, and Olivo was able to grab it as he fell into the end zone.
Had he not caught it, St. Mary’s would have been called for the pass interference.
“If we don’t get that one, I don’t know which way the game goes,” Canepa said.
Said Durossette: “The out was open, but coach told me to throw the fade. I just tried to give Minaya a chance and he went up and made an unbelievable catch.”
Olivo, the son of 13-year former major league catcher Miguel Olivo, showed off his own catching abilities.
“I just stayed focused,” he said. “I saw the ball and grabbed it. That gave us motivation (in the second half).”
The final 30 minutes is when the Raiders began to play “Central Catholic football,” Jacklich said.
The 6-foot, 185-pound running back had 16 of his 25 carries in the final 24 minutes and rushed for 123 yards. He was playing in place of starter Dawaiin McNeely, who was limited by a shoulder injury
His 11-yard TD run with 7:30 left in the third quarter gave the Raiders a 27-20 lead. Sithri Price then jumped in front of a May pass for an interception, and Jacklich scored on an 8-yard run on the ensuing drive to give Central a 33-20 lead with 56 seconds left in the third.
“The credit goes to the offensive line,” said Jacklich, whose team did not pass once in the second half..
Said Durossette of his running back: “He hits every hole he can and runs hard. He’s a machine.”
The defense, which gave up to big fourth-down plays in the first half, buckled down.
A sack by Chris Mendoza and a fumble recovery by Dawson on the Rams’ final drive negated any chance of a comeback.
“It took us awhile to get going,” Canepa said. “We were in a dog fight.”