The Ceres Classic football game, which pits Ceres High against Central Valley, has drawn big crowds since its inception in 2006.
A record 3,500-plus fans attended the 17th meeting between the Bulldogs and Hawks on Sept. 2 at CUSD Stadium.
Tickets were sold via online and at the gate.
Final attendance figures didn’t include students that used ASB cards to gain free admission into the game.
“That’s the largest crowd we’ve ever had,” Ceres High athletic director John Bussard said. “We’ve never had to stop selling tickets and close the gate.”
Fans began lining up outside CUSD Stadium during the junior-varsity game.
The line stretched all the way to the Bulldogs’ tennis-court facility.
The stadium reached its capacity during the second quarter of the varsity game.
"I don’t think any of us imagined a crowd of that size. It was amazing to see. We had to shut the gate before halftime. There were people still trying to get in.”CHS Athletic Director John Bussard
“The game always draws a big crowd,” Bussard said. “I don’t think any of us imagined a crowd of that size. It was amazing to see. We had to shut the gate before halftime. There were people still trying to get in. The line extended beyond the softball field.”
“I’ve seen some big crowds,” said Brett Johnson, who started coaching football at Ceres High in 1991. “This seemed to be bigger. In the last 30 years, I can’t think of another time they stopped selling tickets and shut the gates.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the stadium packed like that on both sides,” Central Valley head coach/former Bulldogs’ quarterback Derrick Goblirsch. “You could barely find a spot to watch the game. It was so loud in there, we had our guys relaying messages to each other.”
“You expect a big crowd,” Ceres School Board member/1999 Ceres High grad Brian de la Porte said. “That’s the most people I’ve seen there in 25 years. There was a line from the ticket booth to the tennis courts. I’ve never seen anything like that. There was nowhere to sit in the middle of the third quarter of the JV game. It was standing-room only. Everybody was there. It was packed. Next year, it might be even bigger.”
“Having all those people there drove us to play even harder,” Hawks’ linebacker/kicker Luis Munoz said.
“It was an amazing atmosphere,” said Landyn Hudson, third-year QB for the Bulldogs. “You have loud cheering from both sides. It didn’t stop.”
The crosstown-rivalry game lived up to the hype as Ceres High escaped with a thrilling 21-20 victory over Central Valley.
Reis Smith helped the Bulldogs secure the victory. The sophomore cornerback deflected Hawk emergency quarterback Elijah “Booty” Jackson’s potential go-ahead 2-point conversion pass to Central Valley backup tight end Juan Alonzo in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks opted to go for the win in regulation instead of attempting a game-tying point-after kick after Jackson cut the deficit to one point with an 18-yard touchdown run with 1:33 to play.
The Bulldogs snapped a seven-year losing streak versus the Hawks.
Central Valley won 14 of the previous 16 matchups between the two schools.
“The 12 I’ve been a part of, this one ranks in the top three,” Goblirsch said. “It was competitive and exciting.”
“It was a great game,” de la Porte stated. “It went down to the last play. Both teams represented Ceres Unified School District in a first-class way. They reflected the personalities of their head coaches. Coach Johnson and Goblirsch are great guys. All they care about is their kids. There are no egos with those two.”
“This game was hyped up more than it was before with the social media barrage and parade,” Bussard added.
Staged on Aug. 31 around Smyrna Park, the Crosstown Showdown Parade generated additional interest for the Ceres Classic.
The parade began on Fowler Road between the Ceres Lions Pavilion and Mae Hensley Junior High School.
Football players, cheerleaders, dance teams and student bands from both high schools marched east, made right turns onto Rose Avenue, Garrison Street, Moffett Road, and back onto Fowler to return to the starting point.
“It was really nice seeing everyone from the town celebrating us,” Munoz said. “Everybody had a great time.”
Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez, who coaches lower-level football at Central Valley High, addressed the crowd.
“We want to continue this for generations to come,” he said.
The city of Ceres organized the event with input from Ceres Unified School District.
The Ceres Lions Club provided food and drinks for the 4-5 p.m. event. They cooked 1,000 hot dogs.
“It was a great collaboration between the city and school district,” de la Porte said. “We got feedback. We’ll make adjustments and try to make it better next year.”