Prep Impressions: Week 9-A

Corona High's football team had a 5-3 overall record coming into its Week 9 game at Corona Centennial.

Corona High’s football team had a 5-3 overall record coming into its Week 9 game at Corona Centennial.

I covered the Corona-Corona Centennial varsity football game on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 for The Press-Enterprise, & @PEcom_preps, and came away thinking Matt Logan makes it awfully tough on sports writers having to ask the opposing head coach questions after blowouts every week.

I’ve covered Centennial games four times this season — Week 0 vs. Bakersfield East, Week 6 vs. Riverside King, Week 8 vs. Corona Santiago and last night, Week 9 vs. Corona High — and each time I’m left talking to coaches who look like that first tire found by the forensics team in an industrial tire fire.

Some handle it with grace, others have melted faces.

Last night it was easy to see that Corona administration made the right choice with head coach Stephen Hill. He has his team fighting for each other to the bitter end, and still just one win (and a little luck) away from a playoff berth.

To wit: Hill has guided his team to more wins this season than the Panthers have had in his three previous seasons combined. The team’s five wins this season are the program’s most in one season since a 2010 team that finished 5-6, qualified as the Big VIII’s third place team, and was bounced in the first round of the CIF-SS Inland Division playoffs.

Hill’s team this year is better than that ’10 team, but just like that team they didn’t have any success against Centennial. Only Malik Walker scored after busting through the line for a late 31-yard score to keep it from being a shutout, but Corona sideline never quit. Backups were still bouncing around following their coaches. Assistant coaches never stopped supporting the players.

Centennial is Goliath-like at the moment. 79 and 69 points in back-to-back league games can make a team feel almost invincible. Senior QB Anthony Catalano played his typical half of football, posting solid numbers yet again, and junior RB Miles Reed thundered his way a pair of touchdowns among the fracas.

Corona head coach Stephen Hill:
“To be quite honest, just going into it I just wanted to see that we were going to be able to do our game. Focus on us; Try to play up and not try to play down, and we definitely came out and did not execute. We laid down. That’s all there is to it. Turnovers, incomplete passes; It’s everybody not doing their job. They’re too worried about the jerseys on the other side of the line of scrimmage instead of just doing them. We’ve made this game not even relevant. We’ve got to play tough and make this a game before we can do that. I don’t think they even consider it a rivalry. For us it’s a test of manhood, almost. Are we going to step up and play football against a bunch of other teenagers? Or are we going to lay down for a name? I think we’ll be fine. We’ll come back and hopefully we’ll worry about us and not the team on the other side. That’s kind of been our theme all year, is to worry about us. To not play up to anybody, not play down to anybody, and we for sure, for sure laid down. Hopefully they can lick their wounds over the weekend and come back and finish strong. These seniors have sacrificed and stayed the course and I’d love to see them go out the way they deserve. They deserve to go out like a group of guys who have turned a culture around. They’re for sure a different team. I’d love to finish strong, finish with some passion and drive. As a lineman, I was taught since a little boy to not care what the scoreboard says, I’m grinding. As much as we preach it they obviously didn’t. But (Centennial is) an amazing football team. Those guys are pretty freaking spectacular, but that has no bearing on us stepping the right direction and making the right reads. Hopefully we grow from it and finish strong. I’d love to see these seniors — this is my senior class — so I’d love to remember them with a great last game.”

Corona Centennial head coach Matt Logan:
“I thought (the defense) played really well. I think they came up with some big-play opportunities against the passing game, some nice interceptions and a couple of nice run-backs, too. We like short weeks. It’s nice, especially at the end of the year, you’ve already got pretty much every thing established at that point so you just come in, play a game, and get out.”

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