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CV challenges Central Catholic before key injury derails upset bid
Central Catholic High School's varsity football team had its hands full while trying to contain star running back Ja'Quan Gardner and Central Valley in the opening half.

Gardner piled up 180 yards and three touchdowns.

The Raiders caught a break when Hawk receiver/cornerback Greg Tripp dislocated his right knee cap while breaking up a pass on defense early in the third period.

Central Valley's offense struggled without Tripp.

Central Catholic limited Gardner to just 11 yards on the ground after intermission on its way to pulling away for a 34-20 victory over the Hawks Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.

"We were in position for an upset," Tripp said. "Momentum changed after I left the game. It sucked watching."

Central Valley dropped to 3-6 on the year and 1-4 in the Western Athletic Conference (fifth place).

Second-place Central Catholic moved to 7-2 and 4-1.

"I'm pretty satisfied with how we played," said Gardner, who grabbed four passes for 40 yards in the second half. "Our effort was there. Everybody expected us to get blasted. We just lost the momentum."

The Raiders were led by senior running back Sterling Shaw. Shaw, formerly of Central Valley, had a career-high 183 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.

Central Catholic lineman Andrew Betschart used to also play for the Hawks.

"We knew if Sterling was in the game, they were going to give him the ball," said Tripp, who was teammates with Shaw at the youth, freshman and sophomore levels. "He made some good plays."

Gardner scored on runs of 75, 5 and 41 yards as Central Valley built a 20-13 lead in the opening half.

The Raiders shut out the Hawks 21-0 after intermission.

Shaw tallied the go-ahead TD with 9:10 left in regulation. Sterling scampered 37 yards.

"I've been waiting for this game for 365 days," Shaw said. "We didn't expect them to come out with that much intensity. They got us in the first half. Once he (Tripp) came out, we keyed on their running game. Ja'Quan's the best back we've faced all year. When you mix power and speed with heart, you have a deadly combination."

Central Valley will try to improve its all-time record to 5-1 against crosstown-rival Ceres High this Friday. The Ceres Classic game will get underway at 7 p.m.

"I'm looking forward to it," Gardner said. "It's going to be a fun game. Hopefully, we win. We want to continue our dominance."