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It's become an annual tradition since 2007.

For the fifth year in a row, Central Valley High School's varsity football team beat Ceres High.

The Hawks won the Western Athletic Conference crosstown showdown finale, 55-21, in front of a standing-room-only crowd Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.

"It's exactly how we wanted the game to go," Central Valley star running back Ja'Quan Gardner said. "We executed. We played hard from the first whistle to the last."

The Hawks and Bulldogs posted overall records of 4-6 and 3-7, respectively.

Central Valley, Ceres High and Livingston tied for fourth place in the WAC standings with identical 2-4 marks.

Gardner, a sophomore, carved up the Bulldogs' defense for 307 rushing yards and a school-record seven touchdowns. He shattered former Hawk Tyree Jones' single-season records for yards (1,985) and TDs (25).

"I have to give a shout out to my offensive line," a humble Ja'Quan said.

"You can watch as much game film as you want," Bulldogs all-purpose player Nick Welsh said. "But nothing compares to the game. Ja'Quan's shifty. He has speed. He's small. He's a talented guy. You got to give him credit. He beat us."

The two sides traded scores before Central Valley imposed its will.

Ceres High's crowd erupted after Gardner was tackled for a 2-yard loss during the Hawks' first offensive play. The excitement didn't last too long as Ja'Quan's second carry resulted in a 62-yard TD.

The Bulldogs battled back on the strength of their rushing attack.

Ceres High's game-tying drive consisted of 11 runs and covered 61 yards.

Welsh, who split time at quarterback with Blake Hurst, scored on a 6-yard run late in the first quarter.

Gardner's 8-yard TD broke a 7-7 tie less than a minute into the second quarter.

Ceres High's subsequent drive started at its own 20 and ended with a turnover in Central Valley's end zone. Hurst's pass from the Hawks' 9-yard line was picked off by safety Kenny Lopez. Eight of the Bulldogs' previous 10 plays were runs.

Central Valley outscored Ceres High 14-0 in the final 3:45 of the opening half.

Gardner scored on a 17-yard run.

Ja'Quan's fourth TD came on a broken play when Lopez, Central Valley's southpaw quarterback, rolled to his right. Kenny avoided being sacked and threw a backwards pass to Gardner, who scored from 5 yards out.

Gardner had touchdown runs of 36, 11 and 3 yards after intermission.

Central Valley's Juan Plasencia also tallied a rushing TD (29 yards).

Hurst threw a 47-yard TD pass to Caden Johnson, and scored on a 1-yard run.

"Our defense couldn't stop him (Gardner) and we couldn't get anything going offensively," Welsh said. "We just made a lot of mental mistakes. It's really frustrating."

"Other teams don't have anybody like him (Ja'Quan)," Lopez said. "He makes our confidence level go up. He's a playmaker. He's humble. He just gets the job done."

Lopez filled in on offense for three-year starter Abraham Navarro, who's been sidelined for most of the year with a knee injury.

Hawk standout receiver Greg Tripp suffered a season-ending knee injury during Week 9.

Anthony Centeno stretched the field against Ceres High with 104 yards on three catches.

"Centeno stepped up big time," Gardner said. "I'm proud of him."

Lopez's first-half interception changed the momentum of the game.

"We were all confident," Kenny said when asked if his team had any concerns going into the crosstown game. "We were able to execute everything. I knew we'd win."

The Hawks improved their all-time record versus Ceres High to 5-1.

The Ceres Classic perpetual trophy will be displayed at Central Valley for another year.

"With the pieces we have in place and the strides we made this season, I think we're going in the right direction," Hawks head coach Tim Garcia said. "We're looking forward to the future."

"I'm going to leave high school remembering we got dominated by Central Valley," said Welsh, a varsity player since his sophomore year. "It's one of the worst feelings."