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CHS grad contributes at Mendocino College
Rafael Valencia quit football following a red-shirt season at Modesto Junior College.

After spending a year on the sidelines as junior-varsity offensive coordinator at his alma mater, the 2005 Ceres High graduate moved to Ukiah to restart his career.

"I felt like I could still play," Valencia said. "I didn't want to have any regrets."

Rafael, 22, had a successful two-year stint with Mendocino College. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver caught 66 passes for 653 yards and six touchdowns as the Eagles posted a 12-9 combined record and captured the 2009 Mid-Empire Conference championship.

"Being able to play again was a lot of fun," Valencia said. "It was an awesome experience."

This past season, Rafael totaled 297 yards and four scores on 26 receptions. He started all 10 games.

Valencia caught four passes for 50 yards and one touchdown in a 54-36 loss at Santa Rosa on Oct. 3.

"That was against one of the best teams in the state," he said.

Rafael concluded his career with a four-catch, 50-yard effort in Mendocino College's 45-31 loss to host Fresno City College in the State Center Bowl Game on Nov. 21.

Valencia had 40 receptions for 356 yards and two TDs in nine games for the Eagles (6-4) as a freshman.

He grabbed eight passes for 73 yards in his first-ever contest, a 22-7 win against Hartnell.

Rafael had a productive prep football career as well.

He helped lead Ceres High to a share of the Modesto Metro Conference title (4-1), Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff berth and 6-5 overall record during his senior year (2004-05).

Valencia (33-277-3) earned second-team, all-league honors.

The Bulldogs made their first postseason appearance in eight years and won seven of 10 games during Rafael's junior year.

Valencia shared an apartment with former Grace Davis quarterback Jake Laudenslayer during his first year at Mendocino College. The two became close friends and engaged in friendly trash talking.

"I played against him my senior year," said Rafael, whose team lost the head-to-head meeting (26-6) but claimed the bigger prize (MMC title). "We talked about it all the time. I kind of rubbed it in that he didn't have a championship ring."

Rafael's teams won league titles in high school and college.

"That's pretty cool," he said.

Valencia seized the opportunity given to him by Mendocino College head coach Tom Gang.

Gang, formerly of Ceres, extended an invitation after receiving a phone call from Rafael.

"He explained the situation," Valencia said. "They graduated four receivers so I decided to go out there."

Rafael earned his A.A. degree in business at Mendocino College. He'll complete his education at Cal State Stanislaus in the spring of 2011.

Football will still be a part of his life.

"I do plan on coaching in the future," he said.