Feb. 11--The fastest-growing brand in sports has hitched its name to the Central Catholic High School football program.
Beginning this fall, the four-time defending state champion Raiders will be sponsored by Under Armour.
Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa announced the partnership to members of the varsity team Wednesday afternoon, shortly after he and athletic director Billy Hylla finalized the uniform design.
Though terms of the agreement weren't disclosed, Under Armour representative Matt Valentine confirmed Central Catholic has joined the "Undeniable" campaign, a nationwide family of 30 to 40 high school teams.
"It's an honor," Canepa said. "We want to be as good a football program as there is in the state, big or small. The only way to do that is to play better people. All these things come your way when you're winning.
"It's like I always say, 'Good things happen when you work hard.' There are a lot of teams out there that would like to be sponsored (by Under Armour), and it worked out for us."
Central Catholic joins Folsom, Del Oro (Loomis) and Serra (San Mateo) as the only football programs in Northern California sponsored by Under Armour, which has produced the No. 1 football cleat in the United States the last four years and recently surpassed Adidas in domestic sales, according to Valentine.
Central Catholic (19), Del Oro (10) and Folsom (7) are three of the five most-decorated programs in the Sac-Joaquin Section, in terms of championships.
"They represent the best of the best in the area," said Valentine, a Manteca native well-versed in Central Catholic's rich history. "These are teams we expect will go deep into the playoffs every year. They have excellent coaching, and they bring a winning tradition to the field. These are the teams we want to wear our brand."
Canepa said the Raiders were hand-picked by Under Armour following a fourth consecutive CIF State Bowl championship. Central Catholic, which won its first three state titles in Division IV, captured the inaugural Open Division Small-School State Bowl with a 56-21 victory over San Marino at Sacramento State in December. The Raiders finished the season 16-0.
"They've got a vested interest in us. They want to be associated with winners," Canepa said. "We're a part of their team now. They've got some quality teams in our area; some of the top programs.
"I'm excited. I think it adds another little wrinkle to everything. All this means is that we're doing good things. Under Armour wouldn't give their name to just anybody. They've entrusted us with their name, and we're entrusting them with our name."
Under its new agreement, the Central Catholic varsity team will wear only Under Armour products. That will include cleats, gloves, wristbands and the uniform.
"Our slogan is 'feet to head,' " Valentine said. "We make sure our athletes are playing in our brand, feet to head. We don't want to see any checkmarks."
The sponsorship is the latest development in a busy offseason for the Raiders, who hope to build a national profile similar to De La Salle (Concord).
In January, Central Catholic announced it will kick off the 2016 season against San Diego heavyweight Cathedral Catholic at The Honor Bowl in Mission Viejo and then host Marin Catholic (Kentfield) in a rematch of the Northern California Open Division Small-School Bowl.
Then, on Feb. 3, MaxPreps and the National Guard visited the South Carpenter Road campus to honor the Raiders as one of the top 50 programs in the nation as part of their "Tour of Champions."
Under Armour, which counts all four current major professional sports MVPs (Stephen Curry, Bryce Harper, Cam Newton and Carey Price) and top-ranked golfer Jordan Spieth as clients, gives the Raiders national cache.
"They're such an elite company, in terms of what they do in the world of sports," Hylla said. "The gear they create, the clothing, the shoes, the training equipment -- it's all geared toward athletics. For them to come to us and recognize us as a school that excels on the field is an honor."
James Burns: 209-578-2150, @jburns1980
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