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CV varsity head coach returns to team following brief leave of absence
McCloskey flys to Ohio to spend time with ailing father
Hawk leader Jason McCloskey spent the past week in Ohio by his fathers side. Craig McCloskey has terminal lung cancer. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Jason McCloskey, head coach of Central Valley High School's varsity football program, took a brief leave of absence from work this past week to spend time with his father.

Craig McCloskey has terminal cancer.

"He was given a couple of days to live," Jason said. "He's lasted three weeks. He's still alive."

McCloskey flew to Ohio on Oct. 5 and returned home on Saturday.

Doctors originally thought Craig had pneumonia. Further testing revealed he had stage 4 lung cancer.

"I got an opportunity to visit him one last time," McCloskey said. "It was really nice. We had a mini family reunion. He's holding on. It's something the guys can learn from too. It's a life lesson."

Hawk players practiced under the watch of varsity assistant and lower-level coaches last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Idle for the week, Central Valley did not practice on Monday or Friday.

"I'm very happy to have a school district that supports me," said McCloskey, second-year leader of the Hawks. "They've tried to rally behind me."

Central Valley (3-3, 0-2) will return to the gridiron this Friday when it travels to Livingston for a 7 p.m. game.

"The kids will be challenged this week to not overlook Livingston," McCloskey said. "They're a well-coached team. They have good athletes. If we don't prepare well and take our job seriously, they'll kick our butt. I expect us to be ready."

Vying for its first-ever playoff berth, Central Valley enjoyed a 3-1 start to the 2013 season.

The Hawks suffered back-to-back losses in recent weeks to fall to .500 overall.

Pacheco spoiled Central Valley's homecoming with a 29-7 win on Sept 27. The Hawks competed with a depleted roster. Thirteen Hawk players, including five defensive starters, were not allowed to participate or attend the contest. Twelve of those players were handed one-game suspensions for leaving the sideline and stepping onto the field when an altercation broke out at Madera South the previous week. The two players involved in the fracas, one from each team, were immediately ejected.

Undefeated Patterson rallied for a 28-25 victory over the Hawks on Oct. 4. The Hawks had a chance to run the clock out late in the game but failed to execute. Central Valley attempted an ill-advised pass and was forced to punt. The Tigers scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than one minute to play.

The Hawks totaled six turnovers against the Panthers and Tigers.

"We had two pretty stressful weeks," McCloskey said. "We played one game severely shorthanded and had another tough loss. It was time to take a break. We watched Central Catholic and Los Banos on Friday because we have both of them coming up."

The Hawks need to win three of their final four games to boost their playoff hopes.

Central Valley, which fielded its first-ever varsity football team in 2006, has never compiled a winning record or qualified for the postseason.

"We're not a playoff team yet," McCloskey said. "We're just making too many mistakes and it has cost us three games. Our guys understand that and got to keep working. I've tried to motivate them. I've been encouraging. We need to execute the way I know we're capable of."

Central Valley's final three opponents are Central Catholic, Los Banos and Ceres High.

"We definitely want to try to build momentum," McCloskey said. "We need to treat every game like a playoff game and get after it. I expect our guys to strive to play mistake-free football."

Central Valley has been in this position before.

The Hawks fell one win shy of making the Division-III playoffs last season.

Central Valley dropped four of its final five games, including a pair of contests by a combined five points.

"We're real close," McCloskey said. "We certainly have the talent. This team lacks discipline. We're trying to break some bad habits."