Jared Rice, Central Catholic’s slender safety, cheated Friday night on the second play from scrimmage.
No, he did nothing that would send him to the principal’s office or encourage a chase by law enforcement. In fact, his pick-6 touchdown brought smiles from his teammates and coaches. It also dictated all the terms of the Raiders’ 20-0 victory over a stubborn Los Banos team at Patton Field.
Rice, assigned to the flat, crept forward and intercepted an attempted quick hitch by quarterback Loggan Pimentel. All Rice had in front of him were stripes as he raced 25 yards to the end zone. Chalk it up to a quick reaction from Rice and a play that unfolded slower than Los Banos wished. It also was a harbinger to a take-charge night by the CC defense.
“When I saw the quarterback look outside, I jumped the route,” Rice said.
Simply, it was the kind of cheating taught by all defensive coordinators.
Central Catholic (6-1, 3-0) asserted control of the Western Athletic Conference race by limiting Los Banos (4-2, 1-1) to only 71 net yards. The Tigers took only four snaps in CC territory, after a 51-yard kickoff return by Chris LoneTree, but never penetrated deeper than the Raider 45.
“I thought it would be a 21-0 or 28-7 game,” CC coach Roger Canepa said. “I’ve been coaching 29 years, and I’ve never played Los Banos without getting hit.”
Los Banos answered CC’s defense with some of its own. The Tigers stacked eight defenders near the line of scrimmage and dared their hosts to beat them in the air.
Central Catholic responded with just enough effective passing to stay in control, though it wasn’t easy. Los Banos, young on offense after its 11-2 season in 2012, yielded only 206 yards. Raiders quarterback Donovin Townsend was sacked three times, twice by Ryan Selfridge, while running back Matt Ringer was held to only 62 yards on 18 attempts.
CC did not earn a first down until early in the second quarter when Ringer, still slowed by an ankle injury, caught a screen pass near his knees and dashed 27 yards. Four plays later from the LB 17, wide receiver Nic Navarro gathered in a down-the-line screen — a play the Raiders had not run in a few years — and stepped 17 yards for the score.
The Raiders’ only touchdown of the second half was set up by a special-teams break. A CC punt hit Los Banos’ Gilbert Fuentes on the bounce — he had his back to the play — and Jonah Friedrich quickly recovered near midfield.
The Raiders pounced in two plays — Rice’s 33-yard reception, followed by Ringer’s 10-yard crash to the right behind Spencer Stark and Ivan Swalve.
“Our defense played great all night. If we had any offense, we would have had a shot,” Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso said. “But it doesn’t matter how young and inexperienced you are when you make the mistakes we did.”
The CC defense, anchored by linebacker brothers Reggie and Montell Bland and Swalve on the line, denied the Tigers’ 195-pound sophomore tailback David Walker (17 carries, 19 yards). Montell Bland, an aggressive freshman, twice decked Walker micro-seconds after he clutched the ball.
That said, Central Catholic hardly coasted. Nicked by injuries in the middle of the season, the Raiders prevailed over a motivated opponent.
“It’s a good thing we have Spencer (Stark) and Ivan (Swalve), and Ringer running hard and Reggie (Bland) blocking,” Townsend said. “Los Banos is very physical and they definitely played like they want to beat us.”
It also helps to have Rice cheating on defense.