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Bulldogs, Hawks garner WAC recognition for excellence on gridiron
Ja'Quan Gardner was named Western Athletic Conference Offensive Most Valuable Player after starring on Central Valley High School's varsity football squad as a sophomore in 2011.

Gardner earned second-team, all-league honors this year.

Ja'Quan rushed for 778 yards and seven touchdowns in six league games. He caught seven passes for 121 yards and two scores. He recently took a recruiting trip to the University of Oregon.

"We had the best running back in the area," Hawks head coach Jason McCloskey said. "He's just got so many traits you see from big-time players. He's fast and explosive. He wants to win. That's the definition of a competitor. He's just a special talent."

Hawk teammates Ben Anitelea, Milton Uti, Raul Castillo, Nick Van Tuinen, Marcus Rodriguez and Jose Medina, and Ceres High's Caden Johnson and Ruben Sanchez also garnered all-conference honors for their outstanding play this season.

"I'm happy for them," McCloskey said.

Anitelea (Jr.) and Johnson (Sr.) were both named to the WAC First Team.

Ben made 49 tackles, collected one sack, intercepted one pass and returned a fumble for a score.

"He's by far the best middle linebacker in the league," McCloskey said. "His production was amazing."

Johnson hauled in 40 passes for 538 yards and four touchdowns.

"I tried to play my best for my team," Johnson said.

Added McCloskey: "Caden is a heck of an athlete."

Uti, Castillo, Van Tuinen, Rodriguez, Medina and Sanchez garnered second-team honors.

Milton contributed at tight end and defensive end.

The junior tallied 22 tackles and two sacks.

He caught eight passes for 86 yards and two TDs.

Castillo started on the offensive line during his final season with Central Valley.

Van Tuinen, a senior defensive lineman, had 35 tackles, three sacks and one fumble recovery.

Rodriguez, a senior defensive lineman, had 33 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble.

Medina, a junior defensive lineman, had 23 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble.

Nick and Marcus will be lost to graduation.

"They did an amazing job," McCloskey said. "It's going to be tough to replace that leadership."

Sanchez (Sr.) was recognized for his play on the offensive line. The Bulldogs averaged 249.4 yards per game.

Central Valley (2-4) and Ceres High (0-6) placed fourth and last, respectively, in the WAC standings.

"I'm really excited about the upcoming year," McCloskey said. "We have a lot of talent coming back. We'll be eying the playoffs."