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Modesto Central Catholic, Bakersfield win state bowl games

Freshman Montell Bland runs for 103 yards and a TD in a 36-23 victory over Bakersfield Christian. The Drillers win the Division I game, 56-26, over Loomis Del Oro.

December 20, 2013|By Steve Galluzzo
  • Central Catholic running back Montell Bland powers his way into the end zone against Bakersfield Christian defenders Hayden Kuchta (12) and Zach Balfanz (left) on Friday night in the CIF Division IV bowl game at StubHub Center.
Central Catholic running back Montell Bland powers his way into the end… (Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated…)

It's been a grueling season for Modesto Central Catholic, but in the end it was all worth it for the Eagles, who got 103 yards rushing from freshman Montell Bland and capitalized on three Bakersfield Christian turnovers to earn a 36-23 victory Friday afternoon in the CIF state Division IV championship bowl game at StubHub Center in Carson.

Central Catholic (15-1), which established the largest margin of victory in state bowl history with a 66-7 rout of Santa Fe Christian in last year's Division IV game, set another record Friday by becoming the first California high school team to play 16 games in back-to-back seasons.

"We fought hard all year and to go back-to-back . . . I'm so proud of this team," Central Catholic Coach Roger Canepa said. "We had to win about six close games just to get here. In the second half we were more physical. We lost our leading rusher but we had other guys step up, including a freshman. We've been a running team all season and we were determined to keep running it today."

After Jackson Finch intercepted a deflected pass at midfield, Bland broke seven tackles on a 26-yard touchdown run that padded the Raiders' lead midway through the third quarter. Bland then added a five-yard scoring run to clinch the victory late in the fourth quarter. Senior Reggie Bland added 88 yards and one touchdown in 17 carries as the brothers filled in for 2,300-yard rusher Matt Ringer, who was unable to play after injuring his thigh in last week's North Regional bowl game against Oakland McClymonds.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Eagles quarterback Brandon Jones, who completed 26 of 41 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns but also had the costly interception. He connected with Josh Jackson on a 71-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds remaining. Hayden Kuchta caught eight passes for 116 yards for Bakersfield Christian, which was outgained, 221-2, on the ground.

"We didn't come out ready to play in the second half and they got on top of us," said Jones, who ended the season with more than 4,300 yards passing and 54 touchdowns. "Turnovers were definitely a big factor. You can't give your opponent the ball three or four times a game and expect to win."

Kuchta caught a five-yard slant-in from Jones to cap the Eagles' opening drive, but Central Catholic safety Jared Rice returned a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown to tie it 7-7 midway through the first quarter. Jones' two-yard keeper put Bakersfield Christian ahead, 14-7, before Kenny Smart's 30-yard field goal pulled the Raiders closer in the final minute of the quarter.

After getting a safety when a snap sailed over the punter's head and through the end zone, Central Catholic got the ball back and took a 15-14 lead on Smart's 28-yard field goal with 3:39 left in the first half.

Jackson had five catches for 132 yards and Zach Balfanz and Donald Harris each added six catches for the Eagles (12-3), who beat City Section champion View Park, 40-8, last week in the South Regional bowl game after rallying from a 20-point deficit to upset Tulare Mission Oak, 35-34, to win the Central Section championship.

Bakersfield 56, Loomis Del Oro 26: Bakersfield's Asauni Rufus threw for one touchdown and ran for two as the Drillers won the Division I bowl game for their first state football championship in 86 years.

The Central Section champions (13-2) scored touchdowns on each of three first-quarter drives and opened a 28-17 halftime lead en route to their record seventh state title. Kevin Hayes returned an interception 88 yards for a touchdown for the winning margin with just over three minutes left.

Earlier in the second half, linebacker Nate Stancil intercepted a pass and returned it to the one-yard line, and Derrick Vickers' scoring run gave the Drillers a commanding 42-17 lead.

Dylan Kainrath rushed for over 170 yards and three touchdowns for Del Oro (13-3), the Sac-Joaquin Section champion.

Bakersfield won six state titles from 1920 to 1927.

sports@latimes.com

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