The rafters of the Central Catholic locker room are decorated by photos and names of the Raiders of yesteryear.
Joe Zimmerman, 1973. John Bosio, 1985. Tom Galeazzi, 1995. Byron Storer, 2001, and many more. Each name and face enforces the point to today's Raiders — that they're part of something bigger than just a good football team.
They're the 2010 edition of the Stanislaus District's winningest program, a Modesto small-schools powerhouse that has churned out 25 league titles and 15 Sac-Joaquin Section championships over four decades.
Central Catholic's 89.1 percent win-loss record since 2000 easily tops all pursuers, and it all begins in that locker room, the football nerve-center for all that Raider tradition.
When a visitor walks into Central's headquarters, he feels the full measure of 40 years of almost nonstop winning football. Sons now don pads and helmets where their fathers stood a generation before. In an era where teenagers have little use for what happened a few months ago, they're asked at Central Catholic to be a cog in a wheel that has been rolling since Mike Glines set foot on campus.
Glines, the former Army drill sergeant and Vietnam veteran, stepped down in 2007 after an amazing 22-year run as head coach that finished in Carson in the state small-school title game. His imprint on the program — the confidence, drive, discipline and attention to detail — is seen to this day.
"Our players would bring sleeping bags and sleep in the locker room on game days. It was their sanctuary to get away from everything else," Glines recalled. "We took great pride in how we looked and how we played. Coach (Stan) Galas would check every player on Thursday night on his hair, his helmet and his shoes (they had to be a polished white in those years). You just do it right every time."
Roger Canepa, soon to begin his third season as coach, eagerly jumped into the high-expectations deep end. Rather than be intimidated by it, he embraced it — the win-nine-out-of-10, the comparisons to Glines, the pressure to sustain, etc.
"People asked me why I wanted the job," said Canepa, formerly the head coach at Sonora and Calaveras. "I thought, 'Why rebuild? Go to the best.' I'd rather follow someone who was good than someone who was bad."
Canepa retained many of the Central traditions, including the pre-game dimming of the lights and the Raiders' smoke-filled entry. He also will continue the program's beefing up of its non-league schedule begun by Glines. This season, Central Catholic opens against Cardinal Newman, St. Mary's, Rosemont, Johansen and Tokay.
"It's not a job for the weak. I'm just trying to make my own mark," Canepa said. "We want to be in the last two (of the section) every season with a chance to go to the state final, and we've done that the last two seasons (both 11-2)."
One of the slogans featured in the locker room reveals the Central Catholic way: "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.