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CHS, CV football programs face off for the 17th time this Friday
Tarrell Lee-Gill and Mario Gonzalez
Tarrell Lee-Gill and Ceres High will battle Mario Gonzalez and Central Valley during the 17th installment of the Ceres Classic football game this Friday at CUSD Stadium. Kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Ceres Courier

The 17th installment of the Ceres Classic football game, which pits Ceres High against crosstown-rival Central Valley, will be held this Friday at CUSD Stadium.

Kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.

“Unless you’ve been part of it, you don’t understand,” longtime Ceres High coach Brett Johnson said while talking about the importance of the rivalry contest. “For the kids, they want bragging rights for the rest of their lives. It should be a fun, fierce battle.”

“It’s a huge game for both schools and the community,” Hawks’ third-year head coach Derrick Goblirsch said. “The energy and amount of people is at least double for what we normally get. It’s bigger than our homecoming.”

The Bulldogs (2-0) will be led by Landyn Hudson (QB), Tarrell Lee-Gill (RB), Ricky Stanley (WR/DB), Lebron Stallworth (TE/DE), Kahmi Smith (FB/LB), Josh Prestridge (LB/RB), Faiva Tuakalau (LB/OL) and Donovan Osuna (DB).

Hudson completed 18 of 33 passes for 440 yards with four touchdowns and one interception through Ceres High’s first two games.

Lee-Gill rushed for 205 yards and five touchdowns on 22 carries and hauled in four passes for 98 yards and two scores.

Stanley caught six passes for 186 yards and one TD.

Smith had 11 tackles and one pass deflection.

Osuna had nine tackles, two interceptions and two pass deflections.

The Hawks (1-1) will be led by Mario Gonzalez (QB), Felix Arellano (RB/LB), Elijah Jackson (TE/DL), Diego Delahoya (WR), Garret Garcia (OL), Jayson Casias (WR), Anthony Ramirez (S/WR) and Josh Hale (LB).

Gonzalez completed 18 of 29 passes for 208 yards with one touchdown and one interception through Central Valley’s first two games. He rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries.

Arellano gained 49 yards on 11 carries.

Jackson totaled 15 yards and two TDs on three carries.

Casias grabbed 12 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown.

Ramirez had 13 tackles, four interceptions and one pass deflection.

Hale had 19 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one pass deflection.

“They’re talented,” Goblirsch said. “We know that they’re going to bring it. We always want to play our best.”

“I grew up with a good majority of their seniors,” Arellano said. “I used to play baseball with Landyn. I went to elementary school with Tarrell, Ricky and Lebron. I’ve known Kahmi since middle school. I still talk with them once in a blue moon.”

“I’m friends with like the whole Ceres High football team,” said Jackson, who opted go to Central Valley because three of his siblings graduated from there. “I’ve known them since seventh grade. I went to Mae Hensley Jr. High. The fact that we get to play against each other, and a lot of people are watching, is very exciting.”

“I wish them the best for the season but not when we play them,” Hudson said. 

The Bulldogs will try to snap a seven-game losing streak versus the Hawks.

“We’re not going to go into the game overconfident,” Hudson said. “We know what we have to do. We have to prove we’re the better team. We can’t lose to them again. We’ll do whatever it takes to win. We’ll give everything we got until the final whistle.”

“It’s going to be a very competitive game,” Jackson said. “We’re all going to ball out. Whoever plays the best is going to win. We’re not going to go down without a fight.”

“They’re just as motivated as us,” Arellano said. “At the end of the day, whoever wins that will show who wanted it more. The way you play has a lot to do with how you practice. We all got to be locked in.”

“Everybody thinks CV is better in everything,” Lee-Gill said. “It will do a lot a good for our school as a whole, not just for our football team, if we win. We played them in 7-on-7 during the summer. It gave us a possibility of what could happen in the real game.”

Ceres High came agonizingly close to ending years of frustration against Central Valley last fall.

The Hawks scored twice in the fourth quarter and rallied for a 20-18 victory.

Prestridge’s 34-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to two points with 4:35 to play.

Central Valley’s offense milked the remaining time off the clock to secure the hard-fought win.

Ceres High mustered just 218 yards of total offense in defeat.

Hudson completed 8 of 16 passes for 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Lee-Gill ran for 46 yards and one TD on five attempts.

Prestridge gained 37 yards and scored one TD on three carries.

Arellano had two tackles and one pass deflection.

“We didn’t handle our emotions and hype well last year,” Johnson said. “It ultimately cost us the game.”

Central Valley and Ceres High have played 16 times since 2006.

The Hawks have a head-to-head record of 14-2 versus the Bulldogs.

Central Valley bested Ceres High in 2021 (20-18), 2020 (36-14), 2019 (55-13), 2018 (35-0), 2017 (35-33), 2016 (51-10), 2015 (48-14), 2013 (48-15), 2012 (40-13), 2011 (55-21), 2010 (55-24), 2009 (28-26), 2008 (40-7) and 2007 (25-20).

Ceres High won the inaugural showdown in 2006 (20-7) and eliminated Central Valley from playoff consideration in 2014 (24-7).

“Everyone talks about this game,” Arellano said. “It’s a pride thing. It’s for bragging rights. You’re playing in front of the whole town. People are betting on the game. That brings the intensity higher.”

“Energy-wise, it’s crazy,” Hudson said. “The stands are packed. Everyone is there. People that don’t even like football go to the game.”

“The crowd is so big,” Lee-Gill said. “You see everybody enjoying the game. It’s impossible to not get hyped.”

“Pregame is the most exciting part,” Delahoya said. “You got nerves kicking in. Once the game starts, you don’t hear anything. You’re locked in. It’s just you on the football field.”

The winner of the Ceres High-Central Valley game will be awarded the Ceres Classic perpetual trophy.

The trophy has been a fixture on Central Valley’s campus for more than a total of 5,000 days since the crosstown contest was established in 2006.

“I see it every day when I walk into the cafeteria,” Arellano said. “We got to keep the trophy.”

“It’s time for the trophy to come back over here,” Hudson said. 

“The trophy is cool,” Johnson said. “It’s the cherry on top. It means that you won. I’m just hoping we accomplish what we want this year.”

Central Valley’s move from the Western Athletic Conference to the Central California Conference in 2018 as part of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s realignment plan nearly halted the annual contest between the Hawks and Bulldogs.

Central Valley and Ceres High will continue to face off during the preseason.

Gate and attendance numbers for the Ceres Classic football game are always high.

“This will be my 12th year being a part of it,” Goblirsch said. “There have been a lot of close games. I’m hoping we continue to play that game forever. As long as I’m the head coach of Central Valley, we will.”

“I’m the only person that’s been involved in every game,” Johnson added. “I’d like to see it continue on. I wouldn’t want to see it end.”

File pic of CHS football
Ceres High’s football team collected its last win against Central Valley during the 2014 season. The Bulldogs eliminated the Hawks from playoff consideration with a 24-7 victory.