While no one is taking for granted a victory over Central Catholic this week, fans have already congratulated the coach on Patterson’s first league football championship in 15 years.
Knowing Cozart, he probably didn’t want to hear it.
That’s because Cozart factors in everything before a football game, and even though Patterson is riding a seven-game winning streak, he is focused on the 48 minutes remaining in the 2010 regular season.
“I think the guys know it would be extremely disappointing if we don’t finish what we’ve started,” Cozart said. “To finish 4-1 (in league play) instead of 5-0 is not what we set out to do (this season).”
From Central Catholic’s perspective, spoiling Patterson’s bid for a solo championship, snapping the Tigers’ winning streak, rebounding from their first WAC loss since joining the conference five years ago and winning the regular season finale would make the Raiders’ campaign and give them a share of the league crown.
To Patterson senior linebacker Adrian Laurel, though, “This (opportunity) means everything. To come in as a freshman and know that I worked as hard as I can and my teammates worked as hard as they can and in four years we’re seniors and have a chance to end our careers on a high note. That’s all we could ask for.”
Patterson’s name will go on the WAC championship banner no matter what happens at Patterson Community Stadium on Friday, Nov. 5. But the Tigers (8-1 overall, 4-0 WAC) are determined to see that it stands alone.
“This is for everything,” Patterson tight end Frankie Sanchez said. “This is what we were working out all winter and spring for. It’s been a year of work to get to this point. We have to continue for one more week and take care of business.”
Los Banos (5-4, 3-1) also remains a contender in the league race. Los Banos, which lost to Patterson but defeated Central Catholic (6-3, 3-1) this season, could join the Tigers and Raiders at the top if it beats Livingston High on Friday and Patterson falls.
“Our guys just continue to move forward,” Patterson back George Garcia said. “They haven’t celebrated anything. It’s always right back to work.
“It’s Central Catholic week. That gives you an extra burst of motivation, especially sitting here at 8-1 and unbeaten in the league.”
Under Cozart, the Tigers have never won a football game against Central Catholic. Patterson’s most recent eight-plus win season was three years ago, when Patterson fell to the Raiders, 24-6, in the Division V Sac-Joaquin Section title game at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
Cozart’s squad could bring harmony to those dusty benchmarks in one fell swoop this week.
“This particular group has the opportunity to do some very unique things with our program, and fitting that it’s Central Catholic standing in their way,” Cozart said.
Central Catholic fans also are accustomed to winning.
The Raiders had won seven Sac-Joaquin Section football championships in a row — and 10 of the most recent 11 — before they were stunned by the Hilmar Yellowjackets in the 2008 season finale.
This year, Central Catholic’s trademark power running attack is back, accompanied by the deep threat at receiver. The defense is physical, especially at linebacker.
Junior backs Craig Jones and Darien Edwards, along with senior Billy Flamion, pull the sled for Central Catholic.
“(Central Catholic) look to establish the run first and foremost, and they have a very solid, typical (Raider) defense,” Sanchez said.
With three losses already, Central Catholic’s streak of winning at least 11 games for nine consecutive years is in jeopardy.
Before last week’s 24-21 defeat by Los Banos, Central Catholic’s blemishes were against Division I teams Cardinal Newman High of Santa Rosa (24-21) and St. Mary’s High of Stockton (37-19).
A victory against the Raiders would be a landmark win in more ways than one for Patterson.
“It’s our Senior Day,” Garcia said. “It’s at our place. We have a lot of things going for us. But we know (Central Catholic) isn’t going to lie down and give us this game. We have to go out and play, and our guys know that.”
At a glance
WHAT: Patterson High football vs. Central Catholic
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. (JV) and 7:30 p.m. (varsity) Friday, Nov. 5
WHERE: Patterson Community Stadium, Ward and Salado avenues.