The longest losing streak in the coaching career of Roger Canepa is over.
Quarterback Dalton Durossette hit Minaya Olivo on a 12-yard swing pass for the winning touchdown with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the game as the Raiders rallied to a 27-26 victory over Manteca on Friday.
Injury-riddled Central Catholic, after losing its first four games of the season against a foursome of formidable foes, beat a talented Buffaloes team (3-2, 0-1) for a successful start to the Valley Oak League season.
“We’ve been kicked, but we’re not down,” Canepa said. “Don’t bury us yet.”
The game-winning score was made possible by some key defensive plays in the second half.
Lyon Colon intercepted a Manteca pass in the end zone late in the third quarter after a Raiders punt was blocked.
Manteca eventually took a 26-21 lead with eight minutes left when quarterback Ryan Ward hit Dominic Rea on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
Central Catholic could not move the ball and had to punt. However, the Raiders’ defense also came up big, forcing a punt of its own.
Central Catholic, which hosts Sierra (5-0, 1-0) next week, got the ball back on Manteca’s 34-yard line and drove for the game-winner.
After the two-point conversion failed, the Raiders kicked off, but forced a four-and-out to score the much-needed victory.
“We knew we had to get this victory,” Canepa said. “This is league time. I told everyone at the beginning of the game — everybody is zero-and-zero.
“If we can get healthy, we can start playing and get our rhythm back.”
The Raiders took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on an Olivo 19-yard touchdown run. Manteca came right back to tie it when Ward hit Jacob De Jesus on a 14-yard scoring strike.
Durossette then hit Nic Sani on a 15-yard TD pass to put Central ahead 14-7 with 10 minutes left before halftime. But Ward connected with De Jesus on a 56-yarder to tie it at 14.
In the third quarter, Olivo, who rushed for 110 yards, scored on a 5-yard run, but Manteca came back when Ward hit Sonny Dozier on a 44-yard pass play. However, the Buffaloes missed the extra point, setting up the exciting fourth quarter.
Canepa, whose team had lost five straight games dating back to a Dec. 1 playoff defeat to Del Oro last year, felt relief after the game. He said he couldn’t remember his previous longest losing streak, but it certainly wasn’t five.
What he did know is that his tough preseason schedule that included Clovis West, De La Salle, St. Mary’s and Upland prepared him for Friday night.
“The only reason we won this game is the schedule we played,” he said. “We had big plays down the stretch. That was the key.”