Central Catholic head coach Roger Canepa has a simple philosophy when it comes to cobbling together a preseason football schedule.
“Play good football teams and you’ll make the playoffs.”
The Raiders played one of the toughest preseason schedules in the state last year — one that included perennial national powerhouse De La Salle (Concord) — and started league with an 0-4 record. But the grind of playing Clovis West (Fresno), De La Salle, St. Mary’s (Stockton) and Upland hardened the Raiders and got the ready for a run through the Valley Oak League that culminated in a co-championship.
This year’s schedule will not include mighty De La Salle or Clovis West. Central Catholic has replaced the Spartans with St. Francis (Mountain View) of the tough West Catholic Athletic League, and Merced, annually one of the toughest team in the Front Row region.
“To be honest, we wanted to play De La Salle again,” said Canepa, whose schedule didn’t align this year with the Spartans’ schedule. “But I still think it’s one of the toughest schedules out there. Maybe the best.”
Central Catholic will open with Merced, which reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals before bowing out to Central’s VOL rival Oakdale, then take on St. Francis, a team that won the CIF Division 2-A state title in 2017 and played for a NorCal title in 2018.
After St. Francis comes St. Mary’s in the annual Holy Bowl clash, followed by Upland, a team that reached the 2018 CIF 1-A SoCal regional.
“And they’re all at home,” said Canepa. “Plus, we get our final scrimmage at home, so, basically, we’re at home for five weeks. It think it’s a great schedule.”
And it dovetails nicely with Canepa’s philosophy.
In 2018, the Raiders’ MaxPreps ranking actually rose after losing to De La Salle, and it dropped after a blowout of Valley Oak League foe Weston Ranch.
“You don’t get punished for playing good teams,” said Canepa.