Whether it was winning a third straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title or getting eligible for a run at a third straight CIF Division IV state bowl game title, threes were on the mind for the players and coaches at Central Catholic of Modesto after Friday’s section final at Lincoln High of Stockton.
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The Raiders trailed 7-0 against Sonora, but quickly came back for a 14-7 lead and went on to outlast the Wildcats 42-35.
Central Catholic improved to 11-3 and became eligible to be chosen for this year’s NorCal D4 regional bowl game. Even with those three losses, that selection is a formality considering the team’s two straight wins in Carson and since those three losses were all to bigger schools (St. Mary’s of Stockton, Sierra of Manteca & Oakdale).
The close call was not unexpected. Sonora came into the night at 11-1 with 11 straight wins with its only loss coming to Sac-Joaquin Section Division III finalist Oakdale 28-14 in its first game.
In fact, the game had CIF bowl ramifications in two divisions since a Sonora win (combined with Oakdale winning the D3 section title) would have given the Wildcats an argument to be considered for the NorCal D3 bowl game.
It was one of those contests in which Central Catholic was never in serious trouble, but was one freak turnover away from an upset loss.
“I wasn’t too worried until that last onside kick,” said Raiders’ quarterback Hunter Petlansky. “You never know what could happen.”
“I never thought we were in control,” said Central Catholic head coach Roger Canepa. “They were moving it on us all night long.”
Sonora scored with 1:10 left on a one-yard plunge by Wyatt Faughnan, but the Raiders caught the onside attempt and then went into kneel down mode.
Petlansky only threw eight passes, but completed three of them for touchdowns and finished six of eight for 177 yards. He also scored on runs of 1 and 2 yards.
Petlansky’s third TD pass came on a screen in the second quarter to fellow junior Justin Rice, who took the play 58 yards. His other two were 32 yards to Ryan Vierra and 44 yards to Jared Rice.
Justin Rice, who is Jared’s younger brother but not realated to another Jared Rice on the roster who plays a lot on both sides of the ball, had one of his best outings of the season. He rushed for 204 yards on 22 carries, including a 59-yard TD on Central Catholic’s first offensive snap, and he caught two passes for 65 yards.
“I’m happy for the kids because they played hard tonight and they’ve played hard all year,” Canepa said. “But I won’t be able to really enjoy it when it’s all done.”
Sonora, which switched leagues this year from the Valley Oak to the Mother Lode and had to juggle its home schedule to construction of a new track at legendary Dunlavy Field, was led by junior quarterback Sam Page and senior fullback Billy Kiriluk.
Page, who directed a furious drive late in the fourth quarter that gave his team a chance, completed seven of 11 passes for 130 yards and two TDs. He also rushed eight times for 88 yards. Kiriluk, who is a nephew of the Central Catholic head coach, had two TD runs and had 21 carries for 97 yards. Another nephew of Canepa, who was a former coach at Sonora himself and directed a team against his former school for the first time, is Wildcat sophomore Bradley Canepa.
Canepa isn’t complaining, but is showing the wear and tear of coaching a team that played 16 times in 2012, 16 times in 2013 and may get to 16 games this season.
“We’re in territory that we’ve never been in before,” he said. “We’re doing four seasons in three.
“We’ve had to really battle this year and nothing’s been easy.”
Central Catholic won’t know which team it will be playing until Sunday, Dec. 7 and that other slot in the NorCal D4 bowl game could be controversial and tough to choose.
McClymonds of Oakland, which is the team the Raiders have defeated in the last two NorCal D4 bowl games, also became bowl eligible on Friday by winning the Oakland Section Silver Bowl. And while the Warriors appear better than last year and are 12-0 on the field, they have four forfeit losses that may become official any day now.
Canepa said after the game Friday he was planning to see the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI final on Saturday between Capital Christian of Sacramento and Modesto Christian. If the McClymonds forfeits stand, the winner of that game could be the one that the Raiders will need to get past to earn another trip to Carson.