OAKLAND -- Two years ago, the McClymonds High football team waited around for the opportunity that never came.
One of the best teams in school history saw its season end with a Silver Bowl victory and a 12-0 record. It was a great accomplishment, but the Warriors wanted more. They wanted a shot at a state title.
"Nothing will ever replace that season, because it was a special season," McClymonds coach Curtis McCauley said. "That team missed a great opportunity that can never be replaced."
Old wounds are clearly hard to heal, but the Warriors have a shot at some redemption Friday when they face Central Catholic-Modesto in the inaugural California Interscholastic Federation Division IV Northern regional championship bowl game. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln High in Stockton.
"We've been calling this a redemption game," said senior lineman Kevin Vaughn, who was also a starter on the 2010 team. "I think we deserved a shot in 2010."
Mack, like all Oakland Section schools, was considered a Division II team two years ago and was passed over for the state bowl berth in favor of Folsom, which boasted a better strength of schedule.
The CIF since has changed its divisional placements. Oakland Section schools are now in Division III, and because McClymonds' enrollment is less than 500, it's placed in Division IV.
The state added the regional bowl games this year to give more teams a shot at a state title, and that's created what McCauley calls a "lifetime opportunity."
"I don't know what it feels like to practice this time of the year," he said. "I'm usually collecting equipment and getting ready for the team banquet."
Members of the 2010 team will be rooting for Mack to take advantage of the opportunity they didn't have.
"I'm excited for them," said Marcus Peters, the star of the 2010 team who is a starting cornerback at the University of Washington. "They finally get the chance to show what they can do."
The Warriors (9-3) have enjoyed one of the best three-year runs in recent Oakland Athletic League history, going 31-5 and winning the past three Silver Bowls. Mack has won 21 straight against OAL competition.
The success has come thanks to dedication by the players and its coaching staff. The OAL requires twice-weekly study hall sessions; Mack has study hall four days a week. That's helped the Warriors maintain a roster of eligible players, even if they average only 25 on their roster.
Mack enters this game feeling as though everyone expects it to lose, creating the type of underdog role it relishes.
The Warriors expect to see a very disciplined opponent in Central Catholic, but they have seen top competition this year.
Mack faced an Oak Grove-San Jose team that competed in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs and played a West Valley-Cottonwood team that made the Northern Section Division II title game.
West Valley lost that game in overtime to Sutter, which is playing in the Division III regional game.
"We have to play almost a perfect game," McCauley said. "But we have to play our style of football."
SCOUTING CENTRAL CATHOLIC
Coach: Roger Canepa, fifth year
2012 record: 12-2 (Sac-Joaquin Division IV champion)
A closer look: The Raiders have won 16 Sac-Joaquin Section titles, but this was their first since 2007. That year, Central Catholic earned a berth in the CIF Division III state bowl game, losing 35-21 to St. Bonaventure-Ventura. The Raiders feature a two-headed rushing attack of Ray Lomas (1,765 yards, 28 touchdowns) and Rey Vega (1,200 yards, 22 touchdowns). Quarterback Garrett Ardis has thrown for 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns. His big target is Johnny Mundt, a 6-foot-5 receiver who is committed to Oregon. The Raiders are averaging 49.7 points per game. Their two losses came in their first four games. Since then, Central Catholic has won 10 straight by an average score of 53-13.