Three-peat for Central Catholic

Jared Rice of Central Catholic catches his first TD pass of the night in photo at right. His second TD was caught in the third quarter (left). Photos: Phillip Walton/SportStars.

Jared Rice of Central Catholic catches his first TD pass of the night in photo at right. His second TD was caught in the third quarter (left). Photos: Phillip Walton/SportStars.


The Raiders once again show they just play at a higher level than the more traditional small schools of Southern California with 31-19 triumph over St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano for their third straight CIF Division IV state title.

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The game most of the statewide prep football experts had agreed on for an outcome turned out pretty much as expected.

NorCal champion Central Catholic of Modesto (12-3) controlled things from the outset and went on to beat St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano (15-1) 31-19 in the CIF Division IV state bowl game played Friday afternoon at the StubHub Center.

The Raiders bolted out to a 21-0 second quarter lead and led 24-6 at halftime. They stretched it to 31-6 before St. Margaret’s scored twice in the waning moments, including the final play of the game.

Kekupaa Freehauf, a junior linebacker, signals three for the third straight CIF state title for Modesto Central Catholic. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Kekupaa Freehauf, a junior linebacker, signals three for the third straight CIF state title for Modesto Central Catholic. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Central Catholic’s 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback Hunter Petlansky passed for 168 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 54 yards and a third score. His favorite target, Jared Rice, had both of the TD receptions and finished with six catches for 73 yards receiving.

Rice also had a superb game on defense. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior had two interceptions, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a team-leading seven tackles.

“St. Margaret’s had played some good teams so we knew we had to jump on them early,” Rice remarked.

Central Catholic also got a rushing touchdown from Montell Bland and a 32-yard field goal from Bryce Wade.

After deferring accepting the opening kickoff, Central Catholic held three-and-out and got the ball following a punt on the St. Margaret’s 32-yard line. From there, the Raiders went 68 yards in 11 plays, culminating in a 1-yard plunge by Petlansky that gave Central Catholic a 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.

“It was our defense that set the tone tonight. We followed their lead,” Petlansky said.

Factoring in the sacks and tackles for loss, the Central Catholic defense gave up a paltry eight yards rushing on 14 carries.

St. Margaret’s quarterback George Krantz passed for 260 yards and two touchdowns, but 103 yards came in the fourth quarter after the game had long been decided, and both TD passes came in the final 14.3 seconds of the contest.

The only sad aspect of the night for Rice is that his younger brother, Justin, had to come out for the second half in street clothes after struggling to hit speed in the first half. Justin Rice, Central Catholic’s leading rusher, was suffering from a torn meniscus.

Sophomore George Krantz's passing fueled St. Margaret's to its late-season run to the CIF D4 state bowl game. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Sophomore quarterback George Krantz’s passing fueled St. Margaret’s to its late-season run to the CIF D4 state bowl game. Photo: Mark Tennis.

“Justin has been a big part of our success all year,” Jared Rice said. “But today it was our passing that was the difference.”

Small school Central Catholic came into the game with three losses but two of the three came against Sierra of Manteca (17-14 on the road) and CIF D2 NorCal Bowl game runner-up Oakdale (48-28 on the road) in the large school Valley Oak League that Central Catholic joined again this season after a long hiatus. The third defeat came in a close 18-13 home loss to a St. Mary’s (Stockton) team that made it to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title game.

“Yes, that helped us and made us well-tested,” said Central Catholic head coach Roger Canepa. “But being battle-tested doesn’t mean much if you lose. You’ve still got to play your best.”

Petlansky is now only the second quarterback other than Bart Houston of De La Salle (Concord) to win more than one bowl game and also do it in consecutive seasons. Houston quarterbacked the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Spartans to three-straight CIF Open Division championships.

With the loss, St. Margaret’s (15-1) is now 1-1 in bowl game appearances after a 2008 Division IV bowl game victory over Hamilton Union of Hamilton City.

“We’ve been underdogs the last four weeks and nobody believed we could do this,” said St. Margaret’s interim head coach Stephen Barbee, who was an assistant on Marin Catholic’s CIF D3 bowl team that lost to Serra of Gardena in 2009. “If we have one play left to do something, we’re going to do it. It’s just not our style to stop playing.”

For Canepa, the personal achievement also is overshadowed by what the victory means for the team, the school and the community.

“I never got into coaching for me or for people to say I won three bowl games,” Canepa remarked. “The truth is I’m more proud of the kids, my assistant coaches and the program. We work hard and good things happen.”

The victory gives Central Catholic a three-peat in Division IV with only the four straight Open Division bowl game titles of De La Salle a greater benchmark. The Raiders are also now 3-1 in bowl games after losing the Division III title in 2007 to St. Bonaventure of Ventura.

“To win three straight and be mentioned with De La Salle is a huge accomplishment for the school and our community,” continued Canepa. “People can say what they want about the little town of Modesto but we can play some pretty darn good football.”

Cal-Hi Sports co-founder & editor Mark Tennis also contributed to this post. Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at marketingharoldabend@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend


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