Centi packed a punch at Placer

Journal Boys Athlete of the Year
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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It’s tough for Placer High fans not to picture what might have been if Darren Centi was on the football field against Oakdale last fall, or on the basketball court for a bigger chunk of the season. The Placer senior prefers to dwell on the good memories, when he was a major difference maker for the Hillmen in three sports. Centi is the Auburn Journal’s 2010-11 Boys Athlete of the Year. After opting to play soccer his junior year, Centi returned to the gridiron in 2010 and was truly dynamic. As a defensive back, he had five interceptions and 45 tackles. Coach Joey Montoya plugged him into the offensive lineup midway through the season. He caught a touchdown pass from Collin Burnett on his first play as a receiver and never looked back, averaging nearly 30 yards per catch and scoring seven touchdowns. Centi was also electric on special teams, taking four kicks back for touchdowns. He didn’t stop there, booting 47 point-after kicks and a field goal for the Hillmen. His season ended tragically as he suffered a broken collar bone in Placer’s playoff opener. The Hillmen bowed out of the postseason the next week as a last-second field goal attempt just missed. “Football season was great. I don’t regret playing or getting hurt,” Centi said. “My teammates played their hardest and who knows? I might have missed that kick if I was out there. I think everything happened the way it was supposed to happen.” Centi’s basketball season was limited to just eight games as he recovered from the injury. That didn’t keep the point guard from leading coach Mark Lee’s team in any way he could. “He’s ready to work on a daily basis and that rubbed off on his teammates,” Lee said. “He’s just a quality person. It was very difficult for him to not be able to participate or contribute (in basketball). And we missed him every day in practice with his work habits.” Centi hit the track this spring determined to make the most of his last season in green and gold. His signature performance came at the Pioneer Valley League Championships. He ran to victory in the 200 meters, the 400 and anchored the 4x400 relay, pulling away to clinch Placer’s team title. “League finals I really enjoyed because we kept the tradition alive,” Centi said. “All the hard work really paid off at league finals.” Centi added one more great moment at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II-III meet, clocking a 48.97-second 400. It was the third-fastest time in school history. The University of Redlands will take full advantage of Centi’s talents next year. He will play football and run track for the Bulldogs. At 5-8, 160 pounds, Centi isn’t a typical college football specimen, but Lee is confident he’ll continue to excel at the next level. “His height is measured in his heart,” Lee said. “He’ll be fine at the next level. The level he’s going to play at, I think he’ll have an excellent career.” After making more than his share of highlights at Placer, Centi is excited about the opportunity provided by Redlands. He plans to study business with an eye toward a career in sports management down the road. “It’s tough to move on. I’m really going to miss (Placer),” said Centi, who will play slot receiver for the Bulldogs. “But I’m really focused on the rest of my athletic career and focused on having the same success that I had at Placer.”