In this edition, the Courier presents Part 2 of the “Best of 2018” list.
1. Central Valley’s varsity girls soccer team elevated its status to a top-flight program in the Sac-Joaquin Section, state and nation. The Hawks made their first-ever appearance in a section title game, posted a program-best 21-2-2 overall record, captured their third consecutive Western Athletic Conference championship and finished first at the Buchanan Tournament in Clovis. Central Valley climbed to No. 1 in the state and No. 12 in the nation in the MaxPreps rankings on Dec. 15 thanks to a 9-0-2 showing during the preseason. The Hawks notched nine wins, one loss and no ties during the WAC campaign. Central Valley won three of four games en route to a runner-up finish in the Division-III playoff bracket.
2. Central Valley’s varsity girls wrestling team enjoyed its best season to date. The Hawks claimed their first-ever league championship. Central Valley placed first during the Western Athletic Conference dual season and tournament. All 12 of the Hawks’ grapplers brought home individual medals from the WAC Championships. Central Valley also finished fourth overall at the Sac-Joaquin Section South Regional Tournament. The Hawks had two individuals qualify for the CIF State Meet.
3. Ceres High’s varsity boys golf team continued its run of excellence. The Bulldogs claimed their third straight Western Athletic Conference overall championship. Ceres High placed first at the WAC Year-End Tournament. The Bulldogs advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the eighth consecutive year.
4. Ceres High’s varsity boys wrestling team took third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships. The Bulldogs also placed second at the Western Athletic Conference Tournament for the second year in a row.
5. Ceres High’s varsity girls water polo team took second in the Western Athletic Conference for the third year in a row. The Bulldogs posted a 10-2 record. Ceres High also secured its third consecutive playoff berth.
6. Ceres High’s youth-laden varsity girls cross country team placed second in the Western Athletic Conference overall standings. The Bulldogs won six of seven league dual meets.
7. Ceres High’s varsity girls tennis team amassed an 11-3 record on its way to a runner-up finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings. The Bulldogs participated in the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 years.
8. Newcomers to the Central California Conference, Central Valley’s varsity girls tennis team won 12 of 14 matches en route to a second-place finish. The Hawks posted a program-best 14-5 overall record. Central Valley qualified for the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons.
9. Ceres High’s varsity girls soccer team compiled an 11-3-4 overall record, participated in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the fourth year in a row and finished second overall in the Western Athletic Conference (7-1-2). The Bulldogs snapped crosstown-rival Central Valley’s program-record 17-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory.
10. Ceres High’s varsity boys swim team amassed 132 points on its way to a second-place finish at the Western Athletic Conference Championships. Los Banos (168) claimed the title.
11. Ceres High’s varsity girls swim team racked up 139 points en route to a runner-up showing at the Western Athletic Conference finals. Los Banos (179) took first.
12. Ceres High’s varsity girls track and field team finished second overall during the Western Athletic Conference dual season with a 4-1 record. The Bulldogs bested Patterson, Los Banos, Pacheco and Central Valley.
Other Notable Stories
1. Friends, former Central Valley High School football teammates and classmates, and other members of the community gathered on Sept. 10 at Don Pedro Park on Blaker Road and Walnut Avenue to mourn the loss and remember Timmy Henley. Henley, 27, was shot and killed by police officers in Colorado on Sept. 4 during a reported robbery according to the Westminster Police Department. He was armed with a knife when he charged at the officers. The 17th Judicial District Critical Incident Team is investigating the shooting. Henley moved to Westminster several earlier for a work assignment with Amazon.
2. It was a whirlwind experience for 2014 Central Valley High School grad/former Humboldt State star running back Ja’Quan Gardner. Gardner inked a contract as a rookie free agent with the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 28. He attended practices and team meetings prior to suiting up for the 49ers’ preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 30. A longshot to make San Francisco’s 53-man regular-season roster due to his late signing, Gardner was released by the 49ers on Aug. 31 along with 11 other players.
3. A member of the USA Softball Women’s National Team, Ceres High grad Nicole “Sis” Bates provided a major boost with her bat and glove while leading the Blue squad to the bronze medal at the USA Softball International Cup in July at Bill Barber Park in Irvine. Nicole batted .500 (10-for-20) from the plate with one double, two RBIs, nine runs and just one strikeout in seven games. She had slugging and on-base percentages of .550 and .524, respectively. Bates committed no errors while logging playing time at shortstop and second base on defense.
4. Ceres 14-year-old Cade Cowell made his debut with the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Men’s National Team in October at the Nike International Friendlies in Mexico. Cade and the USMNT competed against Argentina, Mexico and Chile. He started at right wing against Argentina. Cowell contributed at forward off the bench in the second half versus Mexico and Chile. He scored his first international goal as the USMNT battled to a 1-1 tie with Chile. Cade curled a shot around the keeper.
5. Ceres High grad Nicole “Sis” Bates and the University of Washington softball team fell two wins shy of winning the 2018 NCAA Division-I Women’s College World Series title. Florida State swept the best-of-three championship matchup en route to claiming its first national crown in June in Oklahoma City. Washington beat top-seeded Oregon once and reigning two-time national champion Oklahoma twice on its way to advancing to the finals. Bates, a sophomore shortstop, was selected to the WCWS All-Tournament Team. She collected two doubles, one single, two RBIs, two runs and one stolen base while batting second for the Huskies. Nicole was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Pac-12 Conference. She committed just two errors during the regular season.
6. Ceres High grad Callie Nunes won a host of awards while starring at pitcher on the Concordia University softball team. She was named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Freshman of the Year and selected to the NFCA All-America First Team at the NCAA Division-II Championship banquet on May 23 in Virginia. She was named a First-Team, All-American by the Division-II Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA). The CCA also voted Nunes its West Region Pitcher of the Year. She garnered D2CCA and NFCA All-West Region First-Team honors. Nunes was voted PacWest Conference Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year. She also received first-team, all-league recognition. Callie compiled a 25-4 record with a 0.74 ERA, 291 strikeouts, two no-hitters and eight saves. She filled a major role as the Eagles went 46-14 on the year and claimed the PacWest Conference title outright with a 26-6 mark. Concordia University won 24 of its last 25 regular-season games. The Eagles reeled off 14 straight victories. Concordia University secured a berth to the NCAA West Regionals. The Eagles hosted the tournament for the first time in program history.
7. Rarely tested while starring at No. 1 singles for four seasons on Ceres High’s varsity boys tennis team, Nolan McCaig was forced to elevate his level of play during his first year with Midwestern State University-Texas. McCaig’s superb play earned him the 2018 Lone Star Conference (LSC) Freshman of the Year award. McCaig compiled a 15-6 record while splitting time at No. 3 and 4 singles during the LSC season. McCaig and No. 1 doubles partner Dillon Pineda were named to the LSC First Team. The duo compiled a 16-9 record. Three of their victories came against nationally-ranked opponents. They won their first seven matches. McCaig and Pineda almost earned All-American honors. Nolan helped the Mustangs secure a berth to the NCAA Division-II Championship Tournament. McCaig’s 6-4, 6-0 win over Alejandro Martinez propelled Midwestern State past Metro State-Denver at the South Central Regional. Nolan’s straight-set victory in No. 4 singles play gave the Mustangs an insurmountable 5-1 lead. Midwestern State posted a 1-1 record en route to a top-eight finish at Nationals.
8. Dalton Durossette posed for a group picture with family, friends and supporters following the Ceres High varsity boys basketball team’s season-ending 56-46 win over Central Valley on Feb. 9. It marked the final time Durossette put on a Bulldog uniform. Dalton transferred to Central Catholic. Dalton was a multi-sport standout at Ceres High. He earned second-team all-Western Athletic Conference honors for his outstanding play in varsity football in 2017. Durossette completed 135 of 247 passes for 1,709 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions at quarterback. He was also the Bulldogs’ punter and kicker. A standout pitcher and infielder in varsity baseball as a freshman, Dalton was selected to the WAC First Team. Durossette batted .410 from the plate with one homer, three doubles, 22 RBIs, 34 runs and 11 stolen bases. He compiled a 7-4 record with a 2.53 ERA, one no-hitter, one shutout, three complete games and 56 strikeouts on the mound.
9. The Ceres Seahawks junior-varsity youth football team claimed the Central Valley Gridiron Youth Football League Super Bowl title with a 12-8 victory over the Turlock Hornets on Dec. 9 at Ceres High. The Seahawks compiled a near-perfect 11-1 record on the year.
10. Ceres High grad Chris Lubinsky set career-high marks for passing yards and touchdowns, and rushing scores in the Monterey Peninsula College football team’s 61-33 blowout win of previously-unbeaten Hartnell in Golden Coast Conference play on Oct. 27. The 6-foot-4 190-pound freshman quarterback completed 17 of 20 passes for 459 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions versus the Panthers. He also had three rushing TDs. Monterey Peninsula dealt Hartnell its first loss of the season and claimed the highly-coveted President’s Trophy.
11. Father coached against daughters when Central Valley’s and Ceres High’s varsity girls soccer teams faced off on Jan. 4 at Bulldog Stadium. Miguel Larranaga earned bragging rights as the Hawks edged Edith, Miranda and the Bulldogs 1-0 in Western Athletic Conference play.
12. Matt Chachere was named Ceres High’s new head football coach in March. He inherited a program that amassed a 29-101 overall record from 2005-17. The Bulldogs haven’t posted a winning record or claimed a conference title since 2004.
13. The Sac-Joaquin Section released its playoff brackets for high school football on Oct. 27. Ceres High missed the postseason for the 14th year in a row. Conference champions in 2016, crosstown-rival Central Valley failed to advance to the playoffs for the second straight season. The Bulldogs compiled a 1-9 overall record and finished in fifth place in the Western Athletic Conference standings (1-6). The Hawks went 2-8 and placed sixth during their first season in the Central California Conference (1-5).
14. Senior Dylan Grubeck’s final season with Ceres High’s varsity football team came to an abrupt end. The senior defensive back/receiver suffered a grade-3 concussion, a severe neck strain and a lower spinal contusion during the Bulldogs’ 47-14 loss to visiting Los Banos on Oct. 12. Grubeck underwent a battery of tests at Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Center. Unable to move for close to four hours, Dylan was finally able to wiggle his toes. Grubeck, who used a wheelchair to get around school, eventually regained movement in all of his extremities.
15. Athletes, coaches and teams from the past were inducted into Ceres High School’s Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018 on Feb. 17 at the River Oaks Golf Course Event Center. Former Bulldog male athletes Grady Jordan (class of 1971, track), Garrett Deering (1983, tennis), Fred Orange (1995, basketball and track), Jason Perry (1995, wrestling), Jared Bertolotti (1998, basketball, baseball and cross country), Debin Cowell (1999, football and baseball), Ryan Thornberry (2002, golf), Derrick Goblirsch (2005, football, basketball and baseball), Kevin Dupree (2007, basketball and track), Ray Green (2007, basketball and track) and Ross Tate (2007, football, basketball and track) were enshrined into the HOF for their individual excellence. Female athlete HOF recipients included Karen Jordan (1979, track), Delise Young (1999, volleyball and basketball), Reshundra Smiley (2001, basketball and track), Omaira Estremera (volleyball and softball), Natalie Alvarez (2004, cross country and track), Meghan Franksen (2005, volleyball, basketball and softball), Jennifer Arnold (2006, volleyball, basketball and softball), Jessica Mazza (2006, volleyball, basketball and track), Heather Jones (2007, basketball, cross country and track) and Kristen McClure (2007, basketball and track). Former coaches rewarded for their outstanding leadership included Frank Cheek (1964-1969, wrestling, football, tennis and baseball), Ben Brenning (1968-2002, football, basketball and baseball), Glenn Nowicki (1980-1997, wrestling, tennis, football and volleyball), Glenn Driskell (1985-2017, basketball, cross country, track, tennis and softball), Shawna Nunes (1987-2011, basketball, volleyball, track and softball) and Bryan Harden (1992-2016, boys tennis and girls tennis). Three teams were also honored for their dominance. Ceres High’s 1994 boys basketball team featured Nate Thornberry, Oscar Ruiz, Sean Kitzmiller, Tino Scoto, Paul Veuve, Art Gariety, Mike Gariety, Alex Holloway, Mike Bradley, Mel Claxton, Jeff Burrow, Josh Baker, Fred Orange, Eric Brush and Jody Middleton. Head coach Glenn Driskell was assisted by Phil de la Porte. Ceres High’s 1999 girls basketball team featured Reshundra Smiley, Amy Cucinella, Natalia Kortsova, Shannon Donnelly, Delise Young, Denise Wake, Eric Gomez, Liz Carranza, Cortney Welch, Amber Maldonado and Jamie Bertolotti. Head coach Shawna Nunes’ assistant was Phil de la Porte. Ceres High’s 2005 girls basketball team featured Jennifer Arnold, Kelsey Sayad, Krystle Brown, Jessica Mazza, Heather Mazza, Crystal Perez, Meghan Franksen, Kristen McClure, Jessica Hunter, Donna Zaragoza, Emily Coutrakis, Jordan Nash and Heather Jones. The Bulldogs were coached by Nunes and de la Porte.
16. Golf enthusiasts flocked to River Oaks to celebrate the re-opening of the back-nine course, which was closed for 18 months due to flooding. A total of 80 players participated in the two-person team scramble tournament in the morning on June 23. More than 60 people played on June 24. The Thornberry and Hall families purchased the River Oaks Golf Course & Event Center in August of 2015. A total of $300,000 has been spent on improvements. They constructed a 3,200-square foot tented event center beside the clubhouse. They added an additional 150 yards to the back-nine course. FootGolf and disc golf courses were also installed.
17. High schools throughout the Stanislaus District, including Ceres High and Central Valley, canceled games, tournaments and practices for the winter sports season due to poor air quality as a result of smoke from major California wildfires.