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A rivalry is born
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Separated by just 1.5 miles, Ceres and Central Valley high schools faced off in 14 varsity sports in 2006-07.

As expected, the Bulldogs won the overall win-loss battle (21-5). But the Hawks collected several victories and garnered respect from their counterparts along the way.

The rivalry delivered its fair share of magical moments.

In the spring, Central Valley earned a split with Ceres High in baseball and girls soccer. The Bulldogs swept the Hawks in softball, track and field, boys golf and boys tennis.

The second meeting in baseball proved to be the most exciting.

Playing in front of more than 125 fans on May 11, host Central Valley rallied for a 3-2 upset victory over heavily-favored Ceres High in the Valley Oak League season finale for both programs. The Bulldogs needed to win to secure a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Playoff berth. The stunning loss came less than 48 hours after Ceres defeated Central Valley by the 10-run slaughter rule.

Hawk sophomore pitcher Martin Gomez turned in his finest performance of the year, striking out nine batters and surrendering just four hits over seven innings. He walked off the mound after inducing a game-ending popup in the top of the seventh, then was mobbed by his teammates. Central Valley head coach Greg Magni and his players were greeted by principal Fred Van Vleck and athletic director Michelle Parrish following a team meeting near third base.

"I can't believe it," Magni said moments after getting doused from behind with ice-cold water. "We weren't supposed to win. But the pressure was not on us. We knew what was on the line for them."

Central Valley goalie Veronica Nides and her teammates couldn't help but smile after the Hawks concluded their VOL season with a hard-fought win over the Bulldogs in girls soccer on May 3 at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.

Nides' 13th save, which came just before the final whistle, preserved Central Valley's 1-0 upset victory. The seventh-place Hawks avenged a 2-1 home loss to the sixth-place Bulldogs.

"Everyone just stepped up their game because we're playing our biggest rival," Veronica said. "I think we proved them wrong today. This game showed the potential we have. We're going to show it all next year."

In the winter, Ceres High beat Central Valley twice in boys and girls basketball and once in wrestling.

The Bulldogs survived a scare in boys basketball on Feb. 15 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

Playing in front of a near-capacity crowd, sophomore guard Trevor Mew and Central Valley were on the verge of upsetting Ceres High before the Bulldogs went on a 17-0 fourth-quarter run to pull out a 67-50 victory in the VOL finale for both schools. The two teams combined for 16 3-pointers.

Bulldog junior forward Brett Sayad tallied eight of his game-high 18 points during the game-sealing run. Senior post player Kevin Dupree added 16 points.

Junior Yama Noorzai led Central Valley with 17 points, including five 3s. Mew and freshman DeAngelo Williams contributed 11 points each.

The contest was tied at 41-all with just over seven minutes to play.

"It's disappointing to lose, but we kept it competitive," Trevor said. "I don't think a lot of people expected that."

In the fall, Ceres High reigned supreme in football, cross country, volleyball and girls tennis.

The Bulldogs and Hawks split in girls golf.

Central Valley swept Ceres High in boy soccer.

The Bulldogs grinded out a 20-7 victory over the Hawks in football.

Ceres Unified Superintendent Walt Hanline presented the perpetual trophy to Ceres High.

Before the kickoff, a yellow Ceres Unified school bus pulled into the Bulldogs' capacity-filled stadium, made its way down the dirt track and stopped near the 50-yard line. The doors opened and Ceres High coaches and players filed onto the field. Undefeated on the road, the superstitious Bulldogs decided to travel by bus to their own stadium. They took a detour beforehand, motoring around Central Valley High School's parking lot.

After the historical showdown, Bulldogs lineman Viliami Namomo sat on concrete steps outside Ceres High's small gymnasium. His hair and jersey was soaked with sweat. The numbers of several opposing players were penned on tape on his left wrist.

"They were holding their own for a young team," Namomo said. "They got my respect. I don't hate them."

The most important game of the 2006-07 school year was held on Nov. 7 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. The charity basketball event drew more than 800 people and raised over $20,000 for Ceres High graduate and cancer survivor Brittany Randle.

Her parents, Kelly and Fred, spoke for several minutes before tipoff. A 40-second, pre-recorded message from Brittany was shown on a big screen.

"I heard the game was pretty comical," she said via e-mail from San Francisco's Koret Family House several hours after the conclusion of the contest. "I so wish I could have been there."

Ceres High athletic director Phil de la Porte provided entertaining play-by-play analysis while refereeing the game between Ceres High and Central Valley faculty and coaches. He stopped the game with 2:02 left in regulation. Players gathered at midcourt and exchanged hugs and handshakes.

The Randle family was presented a trophy and autographed T-shirt.

"We're just so blessed to have raised our children here," Kelly said. "The support is overwhelming. Every person in this room has made a difference in our lives. Words could never convey what we feel."

With approval from Ceres Unified athletic director George Sziraki and site administrators, I would like to see the Ceres High-Central Valley rivalry memorialized in a sponsored contest each year beginning in 2007-08. Points will be awarded per victory and tabulated at the end of the school year. The Pride Cup trophy will be presented to the overall winner.

"That would bring more school spirit," Namomo said.