On the morning after Corona Centennial's masterful accomplishment of knocking off No. 1 Bellflower St. John Bosco, 48-41, to win the Pac-5 Division football championship, Coach Matt Logan chuckled Sunday when told there's still one game left, the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game against Concord De La Salle on Dec. 20 at StubHub Center.
"It almost feels we've accomplished what we needed to do," he said in an admission of a season unlike any other.
In case anyone needs a reminder, Centennial lost its season opener Aug. 30 to Santa Ana Mater Dei, 38-18, in one of the worst performances by a Logan-coached team. Fourteen weeks later, the Huskies won the Pac-5 championship by pulling off the rarest of feats — a public school winning four consecutive playoff games against private school powers Gardena Serra, Mater Dei, La Puente Bishop Amat and St. John Bosco.
"All those private schools, we were able to knock them down," junior quarterback Anthony Catalano said. "It's a great feeling. A lot of people doubted us. After that Mater Dei game, I didn't know what was going to happen. We were able to pull through everything and battle through adversity."¿
It was the ninth title for Logan but the first in the Pac-5, the toughest playoff division in California. Centennial's seven-point victory over St. John Bosco was its largest margin in four pressure-filled playoff games.
"The division was amazing," Logan said.
Now the Huskies (12-2) have to figure out a practice plan to prepare for De La Salle (13-0). In recent years, there was a regional bowl game before the final. In the Open Division, teams get a bye this week.
"This is uncharted territory," Logan said.
The good news is that Centennial is expected to get back running back J.J .Taylor, who has been sidelined since undergoing an appendectomy before the playoff game against Mater Dei. Backup Sammonte Bonner rushed for 227 yards in 42 carries and scored four touchdowns against St. John Bosco, giving the Huskies quite a one-two punch.
The rise of Centennial and Redlands East Valley (13-1), selected to play in a Division II regional bowl game Saturday against Bakersfield Ridgeview (12-1) at Citrus Valley, marks the first time that Inland Empire teams will be the primary representatives from the Southern Section in upper-division bowl games. Centennial is 1-3 in bowl games; Redlands East Valley will be making its first appearance.
The Division I regional will match host Oceanside (13-0) against Fresno Edison (12-1) on Friday. The Division IV regional has St. Margaret's (14-0) taking on El Cajon Christian (13-0) at El Cajon Granite Hills on Friday. In Division III, Paso Robles (13-1) will play at Lakeside El Capitan (13-0).
As for beating St. John Bosco, last year's 16-0 team, Logan said a Tuesday practice session gave him a hint of what his team might do.
"It was pouring rain, and we had a great practice," he said. "Nobody complained. The quarterbacks were throwing 20-pound footballs. I was excited. They knew the importance of the week. It was awesome. There was a certain focus level. They knew what they had to do."