The “”We Before Me” motto resonates throughout the Central Catholic football team.
One individual does not make or break the team and the Raiders will win and lose as one.
The position group that fits this mold the most is the dynamic group of Central Catholic running backs.
“It’s special,” senior running back Dawaiian McNeely said. “Nobody is fighting for who gets the ball. There are no conflicts at practice. We all work good together. That’s part of why we are so successful. We are not selfish. There is not one man above the team.”
The success for the Raiders’ backfield, which will face Del Oro for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title at Sacramento State on Saturday at 2 p.m., doesn’t come from a single player. They have four unique backs: McNeely, senior Kyle Jacklich, senior D’Angelo Bellamy, and junior Minaya Olivo.
“They are all different runners,” Raiders coach Roger Canepa said. “They all can play fullback as well. Dawaiian is the fastest, Kyle is a downhill runner, Bellamy is more of a blocker, and Olivo is quick and shifty. All buy into the “We” thing. It’s not about stats, it’s about winning. It’s hard to keep four or five running backs happy but they do a good job of focusing on the team aspect.”
The Raiders average over 269 rushing yards per game but don’t have a single 1,000-yard rusher this year. McNeely leads the team with 972 yards, Jacklich leads with 16 touchdowns, Olivo averages a robust 12 yards per carry, and Bellamy has six touchdowns in his last five games.
“Every time you get the ball, you have to come out and run with it like it’s your last,” Jacklich said. “We are all equal and everyone blocks for each other.”
And be ready for every opportunity.
McNeely was ready for his chance on the first play of the third quarter against Inderkum last week.
The Raiders were down 12 points until McNeely took a handoff 80 yards to the end zone.
“It was one of the better runs of my high school career,” said McNeely, who has offers from Arizona State and Fresno State among others. “I just came out (onto the field) and looked up and it was beautiful with the rain coming down. I heard a hike and I just hit the hole as hard as I possibly could.”
Jacklich, who had two touchdowns in the win, said McNeely’s run “created a spark for the team” as they overcame a double-digit deficit to win.
Bellamy and Jacklich are the team’s primary fullbacks with senior Junior Bravo also lining up there in some packages.
For both fullbacks, the mindset doesn’t change whether they are getting the ball or blocking.
“If one of my boys is behind me, I am blocking my butt off,” Jacklich said. “I run just as hard as if I am not getting the ball.”
When he lines up at fullback, Bellamy uses his focus from another position to get ready.
“I am going to smash them (defenders) down their throats like I do at linebacker,” he said.
Bellamy said the Del Oro defense, which has 94 tackles for a loss this year, has gotten his attention.
“They come hard,” he said. “They are ready to play and they know their assignments.”
Olivo is still nursing a leg injury from the Inderkum game and Canepa said he is “not sure” if the junior will be able to play.
No matter who gets the ball or who blocks, every CC runner is ready for every play.
“If I do a wrong cut or something and miss a block, they are going to tell me,” Bellamy said. “We are just trying to make each other better. It’s competition every day.”
What: CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championship
Who: No. 2 Central Catholic (11-1) at No. 1 Del Oro (11-1)
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Hornet Stadium, Sacramento State University
Ticket Prices: $12 adults, $8 students and seniors
Central Catholic Strength: Running backs. Four running backs with over nine touchdowns this year.
Del Oro Strength: Getting to the backfield. They have 94 tackles for a loss this year. They are averaging a little under eight tackles for a loss per game.
Common opponents: None