Twenty-five years ago, Digol J'Beily was a senior quarterback on a 4-year-old Center High varsity team that ventured into the foothills to play Colfax.
J'Beily, one of the best athletes in the school's history, led Center on a 14-play, fourth-quarter drive that tied the score 22-22 with 1:24 left. The game ended in a tie, but the Cougars won the tiebreaker that would propel them to the school's first football playoff berth.
Fast forward to last Friday night in Colfax, this time with J'Beily as coach.
With senior running back D'Juan Bellaire and junior quarterback Tyrel Anderson now the team's stars, No. 19 Center defeated Colfax 34-14 to ruin the perennial power's homecoming and, possibly, its playoff prospects.
It was Center's sixth consecutive win and second in the highly competitive Pioneer Valley League. That made the Cougars playoff eligible with three regular-season games still to be played.
More importantly, it was a huge boost for a program that lost 35-0 at Colfax in 2010 and 41-14 to the Falcons at home last season and is trying to keep pace with its new neighborhood rival a few miles east in No. 18 Antelope.
Center is aiming for at least its first seven-win season since 1999 when it travels to the foothills again Friday to play at Bear River (6-1, 1-1), which lost 14-7 to No. 5 Placer on Friday.
Colfax couldn't counter the speed, tenacity and elusiveness of the 5-foot-6, 165-pound Bellaire or 5-9, 160-pound Anderson.
Bellaire, breaking tackles throughout the evening, powered his way for 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Anderson rushed for 131 yards and two scores and threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Kris Sutton. Anderson also thwarted a Colfax scoring drive with a first-half interception.
Bellaire and Anderson are returning all-league players who combined for all but 335 of the Cougars' 3,160 total yards last season, when the Cougars (5-6) lost to Oakdale in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
More accolades for Sperbeck Folsom coach Kris Richardson wasn't happy that Jesuit quarterback Thomas Sperbeck had 380 total yards, including two 70-plus-yard touchdown scampers, in Folsom's 56-35 win over the Marauders on Saturday.
But he wasn't completely surprised, either.
"He's a great player," Richardson said. "We had guys in the right spots, but we've got to make the tackle. I've seen Thomas on film, and he does that to everybody. He's a great runner. And he made some great first-half throws to (Jason) Elenberger. That's a great QB-to-wide-receiver combo. Hat's off to him."
He hopes to be back Despite his ouster as football coach at Rio Americano, Christian Mahaffey says he hasn't soured on coaching another high school program.
"I can't see me not coaching," Mahaffey said. "I love it, and I felt we did a great job at Rio. We'll just wait and see, but I'd love to coach at a place that valued football and is into hiring football coaches who also teach on campus."
Mahaffey was off-campus at Rio Americano. He teaches special education at the San Juan Unified School District's La Vista Center in Fair Oaks.