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Ceres prep athletes, teams generate a host of highlights in 2013
Gardners dominance on gridrion top story
Central Valley High School star running back JaQuan Gardner won the USA Today/Asics Ultimate Athlete of the Year award. Gardner broke a pair of Stanislaus District rushing records this past season. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier file photo

The Ceres Courier presents the best of 2013 list of sports stories.

Peak Performers
1. Ja'Quan Gardner was voted USA Today/Asics Ultimate Athlete of the Year. A three-year starter on Central Valley High School's varsity football team, Gardner was also named Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player. The 5-foot-7 senior running back broke the Stanislaus District's career and single-season rushing yard records this season. He totaled 2,467 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013. Ja'Quan ranks first on the District's career rushing yards list (6,014). Gardner tallied a program-best 63 TDs.
2. Ozzie Ramos, a standout senior midfielder on Central Valley High School's varsity boys soccer team, tied for first in California in assists (29) and ranked fifth in goals (31). He also claimed the Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player award for the second consecutive season.

3. Caitlin Pfaff won her second straight Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player award while starring on Ceres High's varsity girls golf team as a junior. She placed first at the WAC End-of-Year Tournament. Caitlin finished 12th at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV competition.

4. Ceres High varsity girls tennis player Marifer Ochoa posted a perfect 16-0 record on her way to claiming her second Western Athletic Conference singles title in four years. She was also voted league MVP for the third time. Ochoa won two of four matches en route to a top-four finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Individual Division-II Tournament.

5. Julio Ochoa, Marifer's younger brother and No. 1 singles player on Ceres High's varsity boys tennis team, compiled a 4-0 record on his way to capturing his second straight Western Athletic Conference crown. Ochoa won all 14 of his conference matches in 2013.

6. Omar Orozco had a record-breaking final campaign with Central Valley's varsity boys soccer team. The senior striker set a program record for goals in a single season (47) and also dished out 11 assists. Orozco was selected to the Western Athletic Conference First Team.

7. Senior Bryce Ford starred on Ceres High's varsity girls track and field and girls basketball teams. Ford finished 11th overall in the 100 hurdles (15.49) at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet. She placed second in the high jump (4-11), fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.99) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (48.98) at Divisionals. Bryce took first in the 100 hurdles (15.72), 300 hurdles (46.88) and high jump (4-11), and second in the triple jump (34-10) at the Western Athletic Conference Finals. Ford was just as dominant on the hardcourt. She averaged 14.6 points per game while earning first-team, all-conference honors. Bryce reached double figures in scoring 10 times. She tallied a season-high 32 points against Los Banos.

8. Ruben Casas pitched, batted third and played shortstop during his final season with Central Valley's varsity baseball team. Casas won the Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player award. He compiled a 9-3 record on the mound with a 2.76 ERA, 87 strikeouts, one shutout and three complete games. Casas hit .361 with two homers, five triples, six doubles, 24 RBIs, 24 runs and seven stolen bases.

9. Bulldog senior Cecilia Carretero swept the 800 (2:34.75) and 1,600 (5:55.10) at the Western Athletic Conference Varsity Girls Track & Field Championships. She finished ninth in the 800 (2:33.71) and 10th in the 1,600 (5:40.42) at Divisionals. Carretero was named Ceres High's Female Athlete of the Year.

10. Ceres High senior Caden Johnson won the high jump (5-10) and triple jump (40-111/2) at the Western Athletic Conference Varsity Boys Track & Field Championships. He set a personal record while finishing second in the triple jump (42-0) at the Stanislaus County Meet. Johnson was also a starter on the Bulldogs' basketball team.

11. Ceres High varsity boys water polo leader Zachary Jones garnered first-team, all-Western Athletic Conference honors. The southpaw collected 54 goals, 37 assists and 31 steals for the Bulldogs. A standout swimmer as well, Jones placed first in the 100 free (50.97) and fourth in the 100 breast (1:11.78) at the WAC finals. He took third in the 50 free (22.67) and eighth in the 100 free (50:09) at the Sac-Joaquin Frosh-Soph Section Championships.

12. Brad Bussard had a productive first season with Ceres High's varsity football squad. The junior quarterback threw for 2,853 yards and 25 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. Bussard had three 400-yard passing games. He totaled a program-record 437 yards and six TDs in his debut versus Modesto High. Bussard was a utility player on the Bulldogs' varsity baseball team during the spring. The Western Athletic Conference Second Team pick posted an 8-2 record with a 1.62 ERA, 54 strikeouts, 18 walks, four complete games and two shutouts while filling the No. 2 spot in Ceres High's pitching rotation. Brad batted .350 with one triple, six doubles, seven stolen bases, 18 RBIs and 29 runs.

13. A Western Athletic Conference First-Team receiver, Ceres High senior Dylan Canatsy posted career-highs in receptions (80), yardage (1,185) and touchdowns (12). He caught 11 passes for 210 yards and three TDs against Johansen. Canatsy totaled 196 yards and one score on 15 catches versus Gregori. Dylan had at least one touchdown in nine of the Bulldogs' 10 games.
14. Heaven Simon had a sensational sophomore season with Central Valley's varsity girls track and field team. She won the 400 (1:03.45) and finished second in both the 200 (26.60) and 300 hurdles (51.56) at the Western Athletic Conference Championships. She set personal records while placing third in the 400 (59.59) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (47.24) at Divisionals. She took 16th in the 300 hurdles (47.51) at Masters.

Most Memorable Games
1. Central Valley's 15th-seeded football team put up a fight before losing 69-55 to No. 2 Manteca in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs on Nov. 15. Trailing by seven points late in the fourth quarter, the visiting Hawks' potential game-tying drive ended with a turnover in Buffalo territory. Manteca's Chase McKee secured the victory with a 69-yard fumble return touchdown. Central Valley lost despite racking up 669 yards of total offense, including 619 on the ground. Ja'Quan Gardner rushed for 378 yards and four touchdowns. He also tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Christian Romo. Kendel Johnson gained 221 yards and scored three touchdowns. Central Valley trailed by as much as 20 points in the second half. Gardner's final score cut the deficit to 62-55 with 8:35 to play. Central Valley had momentum in its favor prior to fumbling at the Manteca 31-yard line. Angelo Bermudez's knee appeared to hit the ground first before the ball came out. The two teams combined for 18 touchdowns and 1,230 yards.

2. Ceres High School's seventh-seeded varsity boys soccer team knocked off No. 2 Oakdale 3-1 in a penalty-kick shootout during the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs on Nov. 7. Bulldog goalkeeper Abel Reyes blocked three of the Mustangs' four PKs. He totaled 10 saves during the contest. Cristopher Torres, Nicolas Martinez and Adrian Espinoza converted penalty kicks for the Bulldogs. Ceres High and Oakdale batted to a 2-2 tie during regulation, which consisted of 80 minutes. Two, 10-minute periods of overtime were also played.

3. Central Valley nearly knocked off crosstown-rival Ceres High for the first time in program history in varsity girls tennis on Sept. 26. The visiting Bulldogs rallied for a 5-4 victory and improved their all-time record versus the Hawks to 15-0. Central Valley made history on Oct. 22 as it ended a seven-year losing streak against host Ceres High with a 5-4 win. Princess Pe and Chelsea Flores, Central Valley's No. 2 doubles team, clinched the team victory. The first-year tennis players defeated Ceres High's Bryanna Lopez and Stephanie Garcia in three sets, 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1. Pe and Flores erased a 6-2 deficit in the second-set tiebreaker.

4. Central Valley's varsity volleyball team stormed back for a 21-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-13 win over host Livingston in Western Athletic Conference play on Sept. 30. Lynaya Lerma had six kills and six blocks for the Hawks. Leah Faamafi added six blocks and three kills. Mia Lorenzo collected three aces, two digs and two kills. Central Valley overcame a two-games-to-none deficit.

5. Central Valley's varsity baseball team nearly swept six-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Central Catholic. The Hawks split their two-game series with the Raiders. Central Valley upset Visiting Central Catholic 6-2 on May 1. Ruben Casas pitched a complete game en route to picking up his eighth win of the season. Casas had 12 strikeouts and allowed five hits He singled on offense. Michael Ereso batted 2-for-4 with two RBIs. The Hawks lost 13-7 to the Raiders on May 3 in Ceres. Central Valley squandered a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh inning. Central Catholic evened the score and tallied six runs in the eighth to secure the victory.

6. It wasn't easy, but Ceres High's varsity football team prevailed. Visiting Johansen tried to run one final play from the Bulldogs' 20-yard line after its quarterback killed the clock. But time ran out on the Vikings. The 51-48 win snapped a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season. Ceres High amassed 577 yards of total offense, picked up 25 first downs and committed just one turnover during this year's meeting. Brad Bussard threw for 408 yards and four touchdowns. Dylan Canatsy finished with a career-high 210 receiving yards and three TDs while grabbing 11 passes. Harman Chung caught six passes for 140 yards and two scores. Brent Bussard, Brad's twin brother, gained 131 yards and scored twice on 20 carries.

7. Ceres High School's varsity girls soccer team knocked crosstown-rival Central Valley out of playoff contention on Senior Day on April 25. The Bulldogs scored an upset by tying the visiting Hawks 1-1 in Western Athletic Conference play. Fabiana Soto scored a goal in her final game for the Bulldogs. Senior goalkeeper Dayana Delgado made 10 saves. Sophomore Angelica Slater and freshman Karina Torrez were major contributors on defense. Rocio Beltran accounted for the Hawks' goal. Vivian Valadez collected the assist. Goalie Alex Covarrubias had one save.