The theme for the high-scoring spectacle that would become the 2012 Central Catholic High School football season was born very early in summer workouts.
Returning senior running back Ray Lomas knew his own abilities and knew the strength of the line in front of him that would be blowing most opponents off the ball.
But in those early moments as a team, Lomas also got a chance to see the speed and hole-hitting ability of the newcomer, the guy with whom he’d eventually be splitting time, Davis High transfer Rey Vega.
While Vega would not be eligible to suit up for the Raiders until the seventh week of the regular season, Lomas and Vega formed a partnership during the summer that would would follow them and the Raiders all the way through the school’s first state championship.“We were super-excited in our preseason camp, talking about the Ray and Rey Show, and get your tickets early,” Vega said. “We both wanted to be at top, both doing our best.”
At the end of the season, the pair stood alone, combining their talents into the Stanislaus District’s most unstoppable offensive force and earning the nod as the Modesto Bee’s co-Players of the Year.
Playing in all 16 games of the Raiders’ 14-2 season, Lomas carried the ball 235 times for 2,084 yards and 34 touchdowns. Vega ended up playing in 10 games — a full season for most players — and rolled up 1,524 yards and 28 touchdowns on 119 carries.
If this dual-back attack was going to work, both players had to sign on for the ride.
For Lomas, Vega’s presence meant having to share the opportunities over the final 10 games after carrying nearly the entire weight of the rushing game over the first six.
“I put pressure on myself to do better, to carry more of the load in those six games,” Lomas said. “As soon as Rey became eligible, I knew the carries would be split half and half, so I was just trying to lead the team early, and obviously getting as many yards as I could before Rey came along.”
Lomas averaged 18 carries over Central Catholic’s first six games, and 12.7 carries after Vega became eligible. But without the workload, Lomas’ yards per carry after the opening six games rose from 8.5 to 9.2.
“It was disappointing when my touches went down, but we both got a lot and our stats showed that we were pretty good together,” Lomas said.Vega, the reigning Modesto Metro Conference offensive player of the year at the time of his transfer, said he tried to talk his parents into letting him move to Central Catholic after his freshman year.
“My parents were into Davis because my brother still went there,” Vega said. “That’s why I was there to start high school, even though we lived in the Beyer district. I brought it back up before this year and that's when I got their support to go to Central. We figured out how to get here and made it happen.”
The Vega family relocated to a home they believed was out of the Beyer district, which would have made the transfer legal. When the home, about a half-mile from Davis, was found to still be within the Beyer boundaries, the Sac-Joaquín Section enforced a rule that made Vega ineligible to play for his new school until Oct. 1.
Looking back, Vega now says the most difficult part of his season was the time spent on the sidelines. He had gained more than 3,000 yards and scored 42 touchdowns as a sophomore and junior on Davis teams that went 4-16, but it hurt him to be out of uniform for Central’s early-season losses to Placer and Downey.
“Those games were tough on both of us, but it really hurt me to stand back while knowing I could have helped had I been able to play,” Vega said. “Standing there unable to do anything but watch really sucked. I felt like I was letting my team down because I couldn’t play.”Once the Raiders were able to load both barrels of their running attack, they wouldn’t be stopped.
Over the final seven games, encompassing the final game of the regular season and the six-game march to the state title, both players eclipsed 100 yards in every game, combining for 2,103 yards and 36 touchdowns.
It all came together on a cool Friday afternoon in Carson, when Lomas and Vega carried only 22 times while rolling up 385 yards and seven touchdowns in a 66-7 state bowl game victory over Santa Fe Christian.
“We set our goals and accomplished all of them,” Vega said. “We won the Holy Bowl (over St. Mary's) and we won league, section and state. Couldn’t have had a better season.”
And doing it together, as the Ray and Rey Show, made it all the sweeter.
“Our goal every year is to go to the state bowl,” Lomas said. “Achieving your goals gives you the best feeling ever. To play in the state bowl and winning it is something I’ll never forget.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything about this season.”