St. Joseph's Trevor Cole not only led the Knights' dominance of Centennial, he exemplified the level of play the Knights have been striving for.
As a force in all three of phases of the game — catching three touchdown passes, returning a kickoff nearly 80 yards to set up a score and intercepting a pass with a 65-yard return to set up another — Cole played with the consistency that has evaded the Knights ever since their season opener.
Cole's performance powered St. Joseph's 48-28 win over the previously unbeaten Golden Hawks and helped the Knights bounce back from last week's 38-31 defeat at Bakersfield Christian.
"He's a Swiss Army knife," St. Joseph coach Pepe Villasenor said of Cole. "That dude does everything and he never complains. Sometimes I wish I knew when he was tired, that way we could sub him out. But that young man has heart. Not just here, but in this community, there are a lot of kids like that and it's a beautiful thing."
St. Joseph improves to 4-1 on the season, the first under Villasenor. Centennial falls to 4-1 and stunts some of the Golden Hawks' momentum after the previous week's 37-35 win over Righetti.
The Knights started the season with a statement win over Visalia Central Valley Christian. They then let Pioneer Valley hang around in a 35-19 win before a last-play touchdown gave them a 31-30 win over Garces. Last week, the Knights lost in Bakersfield.
Cole made sure they didn't lose Friday.
He rarely left the field and the Knights seemed to feed off his quiet, steady leadership. St. Joseph's defensive line, including Billy Collins and Markus Frazier, consistently pressured Centennial quarterback Kyle Connelly, who had trouble finding open receivers.
St. Joseph quarterback Chase Artopoeus used Cole as a security blanket. Cole's one-handed catch on third down moved the chains and another clutch grab on fourth-and-8 resulted in a 36-yard touchdown.
"Coach Pepe just puts us in the right spots and we do what we can to get the win," Cole said. "We just prepared as best we could and it showed up on the field tonight."
Devin Guggia had a full workload, too. The junior running back carried the ball 28 times for 155 yards and a score. Artopoeus threw the three touchdown passes to Cole and also scored twice on a pair of 1-yard runs.
The Knights' rush defense did give up some yards and St. Joseph's defense in general employed a bend-but-don't-break gameplan, allowing Centennial to move the ball downfield.
For Centennial, junior runner Ty Glass neared 150 yards on the ground. Connelly completed 18 of 31 passes for 258 yards. David Stevenson scored on an 80-yard kick return just before half, when the Knights led 34-14.
"I thought we were a little sloppy at the end, but I think the young men understand that it's all about preparation," Villasenor said. "Last week, we did not prepare well and we took a very good team to the wire. If we prepare better, the way we did this last week, the way we did earlier in the season, I think we're going to be a tough team to beat. We'll always be there, regardless of who the other team is."
Now the Knights get to travel to Lompoc to face a 2-2 Brave squad that will be coming off its bye. Though the two teams are no longer in the same league, and not even in the same section, the former Los Padres League rivals know each other very well.
Villasenor isn't concerned with that. He doesn't buy into rivalries.
"That's fine. I've played big dogs before," Villasenor said when asked about the matchup looming at Lompoc. "Lompoc is our next opponent and they're just another game that we have to prepare for. It's just another preseason game. I don't get caught up in the hype and I don't get caught up in rivalries. They do something and we have to defend it. They run a certain defense and we have to score on it. Period."
The Knights were without starting safety Justin Maldonado Friday. Villasenor says he hopes the senior will be back soon.
"God willing he'll be back. We'll put some holy water on there and it'll hopefully work," the coach said.