Football of another kind

Centi trades shoulder pads for shin guards, at least for now
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Darren Centi wishes he could be in two places at once. And who knows? Next fall he might try it. Last fall, Centi was a blur on the football field for Placer High’s junior varsity squad. He was the team’s most valuable player, rarely coming off the field as he played running back, defensive back, kicker, kick returner and backup quarterback. Centi opted for the other brand of football this year — his junior season. Playing stopper, he gave the Hillmen soccer squad a boost of speed and athleticism. The team battled injuries all fall and will miss the playoffs after Monday’s loss to El Dorado, but Centi’s efforts did not go unnoticed. “He’s helped our defense a lot,” Placer coach Mark Miller said. “He’s fast and physical.” Centi’s athleticism is never in question. In just over one month, he’ll be on the court with the Placer basketball team. “Basketball’s going to be good,” he said with a gleam in his eyes. In the spring, Centi will join the track team, where he was an outstanding performer in the 400-meter run for the junior varsity last season. He’s played soccer for as long as he can remember and Centi thought he’d play for four years as a Hillman. But he found football as a freshman and became a star with the freshman and junior varsity teams. Centi appreciates both of the sports’ nuances. “Football is much more intense,” Centi said. “Soccer is different, but it’s definitely physical in its own way. Both have been really fun.” He’s heard the taunts from his former football teammates, but he still counts most of them as close friends and is a big supporter of the Hillmen on Friday nights. “They rib me sometimes, but it’s not too bad,” Centi said. “I’m still friends with those guys. I knew most of the kids on (the soccer team) and I’ve enjoyed making some new friends here.” Placer (12-7-2) looked primed to return to the playoffs when it started the season 8-4-1. But injuries and illness took their toll, as the Hillmen could not keep pace with Whitney and El Dorado — the leaders in the PVL. “It was tough to watch with all the injuries,” said sweeper Nick Mitchell, who missed three games himself with a dislocated shoulder. “Our season started off pretty good and then we had all the injuries. It was really good otherwise.” Placer is determined to hang onto third place in the tough Pioneer Valley League, where only the top two teams qualify for the section playoffs. The Hillmen host an explosive Whitney team tonight. Centi and the Hillmen defense are hoping to atone for a 4-0 loss to the Wildcats in Rocklin last month. “He’s added a lot of intensity to the team,” Mitchell said of Centi. “He pretty much goes all out, every game.” Centi admits he’s got a tough decision to make when next summer rolls around. He said football is definitely an option, but it would be tough to walk away from soccer. “It’s a possibility I could do both,” he said. “I want to help out the school any way I can. I’ll have a decision to make, but right now I’m just focused on our last three games.”