Is This Norco’s Best Chance to Beat Centennial?


CORONA — Since Norco last defeated Corona Centennial in 2009, Centennial has gone on to become one of the nation’s utmost high school football factories while Norco has largely remained the same.

The Cougars have been a playoff team seemingly forever, but haven’t come close to winning anything important since that 29-28 victory over Centennial on Nov. 6, 2009, and enter their Week 9 game at the Huskies as relative underdogs.

But unlike previous seasons when Centennial featured a stud running back and handfuls of almost other-worldly athletic talents, the Huskies are playing with injuries, a diminished running game and only a few true Division I blue chips.

So is this the year that Norco gets one back? Is it the Cougars’ best chance to beat Centennial in a decade?

“That’s the game everybody wants to see and I hope we show up,” Norco coach Chuck Chastain said.

Norco offense is as good as its been. Senior running back Travis Dye might be the Inland area’s best. Committed to University of Oregon, Dye is the Big VIII League’s top talent alongside Centennial QB Tanner McKee.

“That running back is one of the best guys I’ve seen — ever. Certainly Top 4 or 5,” Santiago coach Scott Morrison said. “He’s a tough guy to bring down (and) it’s hard to stop a guy that good.”

Junior QB Nick Lasher is a gun-slinger and has some real targets to throw to. Junior TE Matae Thomas (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) is a beast running routes up the seam, and wide outs Jorge Alvarado and Noah Bogardus are quality possessions guys who move the chains.

The defense had been lights-out, with a streak of three consecutive shutouts until running up against a fast-paced Santiago team in Week 8, but is still good enough to get stops when needed.

“We can’t take anybody for granted now. It’s the hard part of the schedule and the goal is to win,” Chastain said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s by 1 or 2, we’ll take it.”

All it takes is a four-touchdown lead entering the fourth quarter or to be within striking distance with the ball at the end of the game. Not sure if Norco is good enough to do the first, but it can probably do the second.

And if it can’t, Norco will probably finish third in the Big VIII League and have to pray for a playoff spot for the first time in decades.

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