The Central Catholic High football team stayed undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference on Friday, but it had to scratch and claw to hang on to a 24-21 win over Pacheco on the road after the Panthers fought back from a 21-0 deficit.
“Tough game. It’s a win, though. They’re not all going to be perfect,” Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa said. “But I give them credit. They did a great job.”
After starting running back Matthew Ringer went to the bench with an ankle injury, Central Catholic freshman Montell Bland and his brother, senior Reggie Bland, stepped into the spotlight. Montell carried 33 times for 194 yards and a touchdown, and Reggie ran the ball 10 times for 53 yards and two scores.
“I’m fired up,” Montell Bland said about his reaction to Ringer’s injury. “I’ve got to take the ball and put the team on my back. Toughen up. It’s time to go.”
Central’s eight-minute, 15-play drive to end the game made the difference, with a couple of Pacheco miscues keeping the drive alive. Central faced fourth and 2 on its 48-yard line when Pacheco coaches noticed 12 defenders on the field and called their last time out. Canepa switched from a punt play to a run play, and Reggie Bland crashed the line for 3 yards.
“I was going to punt. That’s not like me. I just didn’t want to give them the ball,” Canepa said. “We weren’t playing good ‘D,’ you know. The kids said they could get 2 yards, so we ran our play we ran, and just kept banging away and ran the clock out.”
A pass interference call nobody could argue with kept the drive moving with about 2 minutes remaining.
The game was talked about as an easy Raiders victory, and when the Bland brothers put the Raiders up 21-0 with 7:06 remaining in the first half, the air left Veterans Stadium on the north end of Pacheco’s campus.
But Pacheco quarterback Juwan Epperson got the Panthers going when, facing pressure on a third-and-16 from the Pacheco 15-yard line, he scrambled to his left and launched a long pass just before crossing the line of scrimmage. Receiver Adam Perez was at the other end of the pass for a 77-yard gain.
Pacheco running back Frank Ginda punched in an 8-yard touchdown on the next play, turning the tide in the Panthers’ direction.
“We told them we couldn’t get down like that, but we’ve shown we don’t give up,” Pacheco coach David Snapp said. “Our guys don’t panic. We don’t get rattled, and we made a couple of big plays and got right back in it.”
Pacheco (4-2, 1-1 WAC) followed up the touchdown by recovering an onside kick, and Ginda was in the end zone again two plays later on a 45-yard dash. Central’s last score came just before halftime on a 21-yard field goal from Kenny Smart, who missed a 42-yarder earlier in the game.
Ginda scored his third touchdown after a fruitless third quarter for both teams, taking the ball after Central (5-1, 2-0) came up short on a fourth-and-2 play and going 74 yards for the score, breaking free with a vicious stiff arm and a downfield block on the sideline from Perez.
But that touchdown was the only offensive play Pacheco ran in the fourth quarter – the rest was time-killing runs from the Raiders.
“Sometimes you get them, and sometimes you don’t,” Snapp said. “But I think we just gave a blueprint to other people how to beat them.”
Ginda and the Blands met many times on both sides of the ball, since all three double as linebackers.
“Frank was coming hard, and they were stripping the ball,” Montell Bland said. “I had to make sure and toughen up my arm and cover that.”