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Varsity Times Insider High school sports across the Southland

Corona Centennial shows why it can compete for another CIF championship

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider

Matt Logan is in his 21st season as head coach at Corona Centennial, the school that has won 10 CIF Southern Section championships and 17 league titles.

“He’s an amazing coach,” all-CIF quarterback Tanner McKee said. “One thing he always says is there’s no excuses. The show must go on. Rain outside, somebody quits … we’re going to keep doing what we do. Business as usual.”

In many ways, the Huskies have become the standard for excellence among public schools in Southern California. They’re ranked No. 2 in the Times’ Top 25, one of the few teams still considered an equal of Bellflower St. John Bosco and Santa Ana Mater Dei, so on Friday night, with the idea of looking ahead to next month’s Division 1 playoffs, I spent 2 1/2 hours driving on freeways to the Inland Empire for a Big VIII League game against outmanned Corona (1-7, 0-3).

Centennial (6-1, 3-0) won 65-0, with a running clock that started early in the second quarter.

First off, it was pink-out night in honor of breast cancer awareness month. There was pink seemingly everywhere — on balloons, shirts, shoes, socks, wrist bans, jerseys, hats, trombones. It has particular meaning for Logan, since his wife, Donna, died of breast cancer in 2007 at age 41. Her name was inscribed on the side of his pink polo shirt.

Second, any time you get to watch the best uncommitted high school quarterback in California in McKee, you come away feeling rewarded. At 6 feet 6, the senior is healthy and running the Huskies’ no-huddle, up-tempo offense with a confidence and swagger that should serve as a warning to any defense tasked with stopping him.

McKee’s night was done with 9:17 left in the second quarter after Centennial took a 58-0 lead. He was seven of seven for 184 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran for a score.

Third, the Huskies always have been known for producing top running backs (think J.J. Taylor of Arizona and Tre Watson of California). And now the Huskies have two terrific juniors in Thomas Kinslow and Octavio Cortes. Also receiver-defensive back Chris Venable is outstanding.

And there’s more. Sophomore receiver Gary Bryant is a star in the making. He returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and added a 74-yard kickoff return for another score after a safety.

Then there’s kicker Derrick Valencia, an unsung weapon. In the first half, he was nine of nine on kickoffs into the end zone and made all nine conversion kicks.

Centennial will face a much tougher challenge next week in a TV game against improving Norco, but Mater Dei shouldn’t start getting sized for rings.

“We’re pretty young everywhere except the offensive line,” McKee said. “We’ve had a ton of guys step up. We’re like a family. It’s nice to to work hard and sweat and push through hard times with your brothers.”

Twitter: @latsondheimer

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