Ja'Quan Gardner headlines a list of local football talent featured on college rosters throughout California and in Oregon.
Gardner (class of 2014) and fellow Central Valley High School graduate Gabriel Quezada (class of 2017) are teaming up at Humboldt State.
CVHS grads Oso Fregoso (class of 2017) and Chase Winchester (class of 2017) are continuing their gridiron careers at Occidental College and Modesto Junior College, respectively.
The Johnson brothers, Caden and Conner, are student-athletes at Southern Oregon University.
Caden (class of 2013) and Conner (class of 2017) both graduated from Ceres High.
Ceres High grad Chris Lubinsky (class of 2017) joined Monterey Peninsula College's football program.
"Times are changing," Gardner said. "Colleges are recruiting around the Valley. We want to see other kids fulfill their dreams playing at the next level. They just have to put in the work and show their talent."
"We're proud of them," Central Valley athletic director Greg Magni said. "They're doing things right. They're representing our whole community in a good way. I hope it motivates other kids at our school."
Gardner will add to his legacy during his final season with the Lumberjacks.
Ja'Quan has already cemented his place in history as the Lumberjacks' greatest running back by shattering 10 team records, including rushing yardage in a career (4,121), rushing yardage in a season (2,266), rushing yardage in a single game (313), touchdowns scored in a career (53), touchdowns scored in a season (25), touchdowns scored in a game (5), points scored in a career (318), points scored in a season (150), points scored in a game (30) and longest rushing play (87).
Gardner rushed for 1,300 yards and 18 TDs while helping Humboldt State secure its third straight winning season (6-5) during his junior year.
He was named to the NCAA Division-II Collegiate Commissioners Association All-America Team for the second consecutive season.
"I don't worry about individual stats," Ja'Quan said. "I just want to win games."
Quezada will catch passes and run and pass block while contributing at tight end as a freshman.
Gabriel's main position in high school was defensive end.
Quezada was named Western Athletic Conference Outstanding Defensive Lineman his senior year.
He racked up 44 tackles, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 11 games.
"Now, I'm on the offensive side of the ball with Ja'Quan," Gabriel said. "It feels good to team up with somebody I look up to. It's a special opportunity. I got to take full advantage of it. One of the goals I set for myself is to become a starter."
"He's doing a good job picking up the offense," Gardner said. "He's making plays in practice. It shows how versatile he is."
"He has a great future ahead of him," Magni said.
Fregoso will compete for playing time on Occidental College's defensive line.
Oso was voted the WAC's Outstanding Defensive Player as a senior.
Fregoso had 72 tackles, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles, two pass deflections and one fumble recovery.
"I'm going to get a good amount of playing time," Oso said. "I'll be playing nose tackle and some defensive end. I hope to get five tackles a game and some sacks this year."
Winchester could see playing time at safety with the Pirates.
"He has the measurables we're looking for," Modesto Junior College head coach Rusty Stivers said. "He has good size. He's very smart. He's a high-character guy. The learning curve is so high. We haven't decided if he's going to be in the rotation or redshirt."
Caden, a senior, will contribute at wide receiver.
Conner, a redshirt freshman tight end, will be a member of Southern Oregon's scout team offense.
He'll compete against starters and backups at practice.
A three-year starter in high school, Conner caught 59 passes for 812 yards and eight touchdowns.
"It's still hard to believe," he said. "I'm continuing my sport in college. The cherry on top is I get to play football with my brother. I'm so grateful."
Lubinsky was recruited to play quarterback at Monterey Peninsula College.
A two-year starter with Ceres High, Chris totaled 5,595 yards with 54 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 20 career games.
Central Valley senior lineman David Serrano has generated interest of a handful of NCAA Division-I football programs, including Nevada, San Diego State, Fresno State, San Jose State and UC Davis.
Coached by Scott Edwards, Serrano, Quezada, Fregoso and Winchester helped lead the Hawks to a program-best 9-2 overall record and their first-ever conference title last fall.
"We're just really excited," Magni said. "Our kids are buying into what coach Edwards is doing. I can't say enough good things about him. He's a great leader. He's a man who truly cares about the kids on and off the field. His main goal is to teach them how to be great men. When he talks to college coaches, he's honest. Because people trust him, he has a good reputation."
"Coach Edwards had a huge impact on us because he pushed us to try our hardest in practice and in games," Fregoso said. "He helped me to become the person and football player that I am today."
"Without Coach Edwards, I wouldn't be here," Quezada said.
"It's a whole culture change there because the attention they're getting," Gardner said. "Coach Edwards is doing a great job keeping them on the right track."