Way back on Aug. 30, Corona Centennial opened its season with a 38-18 loss to Santa Ana Mater Dei. It was clearly the worst performance from a Huskies team in a long time. But from the moment the game ended, Centennial Coach Matt Logan and his assistants were teaching. And the players were listening.
Few teams have made more progress over the course of the season than the Huskies (9-2), who get a rematch against Mater Dei on Friday at Santa Ana Stadium in a quarterfinal game of the Pac-5 Division playoffs.
Centennial's two-quarterback rotation of junior Anthony Catalano and senior Nate Ketteringham has worked beyond what anyone had predicted. Junior receiver Javon McKinley, who accounted for five touchdowns on Friday night in a 68-64 win over Gardena Serra, has stamped himself as one of the most exciting players from the class of 2016. Junior running back JJ Taylor, senior defensive back Jihree Stewart and senior receiver Greyson Bankhead are other standouts.
What's most impressive is how Centennial has used its experience in facing the likes of Mater Dei, Orange Lutheran, Bishop Gorman and Long Beach Poly to prepare for any scenario. It helped them against a Serra team that had been playing as well as any team in the Southern Section.
"Too bad somebody had to lose," Logan said Friday night. "Too bad that two teams like this had to play each other in the first round. That's the sad part of it."
The game was crazy, with 15 lead changes, but Centennial was prepared for anything.
"We played every scenario you could, being down, being up, then being behind and coming back," Logan said. "We've been battle tested."
Mater Dei probably has the best defense of any team in the Pac-5. But this is a completely different Centennial team three months later. It should create for an intriguing game.