Sac-Joaquin Section D-V champions Central Catholic of Modesto and Southern Section Northern Division champions St. Bonaventure of Ventura will collide at the Home Depot Center on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., the winner being the top D-III program in the state.
Both teams are similar in style of play and how they got here, each losing to a highly touted team in a higher division who lost in their section final, and each losing an early season game a year ago to the eventual D-III finalists.
Central Catholic features one of the most underrated, but most prolific runners on the West Coast in Louis Bland, the reigning section player of the year.
This season, Bland has rushed for 1,567 yards and 31 touchdowns for the Raiders. For good measure, he's contributed 55 tackles on defense. His counterpart for the Seraphs is the top college prospect on the West Coast and the top running back nationally, Darrell Scott. All Scott has done is rush for over 2,000 yards, again, and give the Seraphs another section title.
Both teams feature steady quarterbacks, who lead ground-oriented games. David Halvorson has thrown 11 touchdown passes to one interception for the Raiders while Casey Serna, since his insertion back into the starting lineup for SBHS, has stayed unbeaten.
Each team features solid tight ends, CC boasting Alex Young and SB featuring Raphael Washington. The Seraphs also use Blayne Lewis extensively in their passing game while the Raiders use James Orth as their primary receiver.
Defensively, Ethan Nielsen and Matt Lawrence spearhead the Raiders efforts.
The Seraphs have been paced by the steady and solid linebacker Loren Powers, who has been at his best in the big games, defensive lineman Ryan Medina, Dylan Davis and the elite junior Patrick Hall. In fact, Hall may be the best all-around defensive back in the West in the class of 2009.
Central Catholic has ripped off 11 straight wins and wants to send coach Mike Glines off into retirement with a memorable end to his career, a state championship game. Meanwhile, the Seraphs are trying to make first-year coach Todd Therrien's debut season unforgetable with a state title to go along with a section title.
The difference in this game, as it has been for much of the year, is the star power the Seraphs boast, namely in Scott. When his team has needed a big run, or a time consuming drive, Scott has carried the Seraphs. Last year, in Scott's lone appearance at the Home Depot Center, his Moorpark teammates dropped a heartbreaker to eventual state champion Canyon in the sectional title game. He's vowed all year to win not just one, but two rings. And he's ran in the playoffs like he means business.
The Raiders have one of the most disciplined teams in the state, and will keep this game close, just as Cardinal Newman did against Oaks Christian a year ago, in what was supposed to be an easier time for the Lions. But the Seraphs size in the trenches, and the power and speed of Scott, will be the difference and the Division III title will remain in Ventura County.