Not a lot of people gave Ceres High School's varsity football team much of a chance against crosstown-rival Central Valley.
The Bulldogs played the role of spoiler with a 24-7 victory over the Hawks Friday night.
Ceres High prevented Central Valley from securing its second straight playoff berth.
The Bulldogs also snapped a seven-year losing streak against the Hawks.
"They had to get through us and weren't successful," Bulldogs head coach Bret Durossette said. "Everyone is excited. I couldn't get the kids off the field after the game. It's a huge win for Ceres High. It's like our Super Bowl. It's the best defensive game I've seen Ceres High play since I came back to coach. We executed well."
"We really prepared well for this week," Bulldogs senior quarterback Brad Bussard said. "Offensively, we knew what they were going to do. We were focused for this game. The only bummer tonight is to know this is our final game."
Central Valley (5-5) and Ceres High (3-7) tied for fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference standings with identical 2-4 marks.
The Bulldogs improved their all-time record versus the Hawks to 2-7.
"Ceres High has a good team," Central Valley head coach Scott Edwards said. "They had a tough schedule. They were competitive in a lot of games. I thought it was going to be a close game and eventually we'd wear them down. When we play together and execute, we're not that bad. We had a lot of ups and downs this season. It was a journey to say the least. This is my first year coaching here. It was awesome to watch the kids grow and buy in. It took time. The bulk of our team is coming back. I'm excited about the talent we have coming up. We're going to have a solid team. The future is bright."
Ceres High had ample chances to break the game open in the first half.
The Hawks were fortunate to trail by just seven points, 14-7, at the break.
The Bulldogs lost a fumble at Central Valley's 11-yard line.
Ceres High missed a 32-yard field goal.
The Bulldogs also turned the ball over on downs two other times in Hawk territory.
Central Valley had a pair of turnovers.
"It should have been 28-0," Edwards said.
Ceres High's first possession chewed up 6 minutes, 48 seconds off the clock. Bussard and Marcellus Boykins combined for a 6-yard touchdown.
"That was huge," said Bussard, who improvised while tossing a 57-yard TD pass to Juan Anderson with 5:10 to play in the opening half.
Ghiorso's TD catch and Alex Centeno's point-after kick cut the deficit to 14-7 at the 1:14 mark of the second quarter.
Anderson split the uprights with a 20-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Smith-Willis broke multiple tackles en route to scoring on a 9-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Bussard completed 12 of 22 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while making his final start at QB for the Bulldogs.
"Brad played one of his best games of the year," Durossette said.
Anderson's lone reception resulted in a 57-yard touchdown. He also booted a 20-yard field goal and converted all three of his point-after kicks.
Boykins caught four passes for 35 yards and one TD.
Austin Stiles totaled 89 yards on six catches.
Smith-Willis rushed for 129 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries.
The Bulldogs racked up 354 yards of total offense.
Ceres High defensive back Daniel Raya filled the stat sheet with two tackles, two interceptions, two pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.
Adrian Garcia had one interception and two pass deflections.
Ramon Coral collected six tackles, half a sack, one forced fumble and two pass deflections.
Blake Tobler chipped in with six tackles and half a sack.
Chris Flores registered three tackles and one sack.
Armani Rivera had one fumble recovery.
Central Valley mustered just 172 yards of offense and committed a season-high seven turnovers.
Ghiorso ran for 44 yards on eight carries. He also had an 8-yard completion.
Jamarea Lumpkin gained a team-high 63 yards on four carries.
Centeno and Gerardo Solorzano logged playing time at quarterback.
Centeno completed 2 of 8 passes for 34 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Solorzano completed 1 of 2 passes for 3 yards with one interception.
The Hawks lost four fumbles.
"It was hard to watch," Edwards said. "To Ceres High's credit, they were ready to play. They executed at a high level. They dominated us. They should have beat us by more. We didn't play as a team. It's extremely frustrating because all of the progress that was made was thrown out the window. I knew we were in trouble because our actions reminded me of Week 1."
"They only had two big plays," Durossette said.
Central Valley had several players suffer injuries during the game, including Centeno (hip), Daniel Alvarado (knee) and Lino Uti (knee).
When asked if he was surprised by the final score, Bussard said: "Honestly, that's what we expected. They made shirts already saying they were going to win. That put a big fire in our bellies. We executed perfectly. It's a game we'll be talking about for the rest of our lives."
Ceres High ended seven years of frustration.
"It means everything," Bussard said. "It sucks for them. But we're excited as hell. The trophy is back where it belongs."
Coach Durossette predicted his team would win the crosstown showdown, 35-14.
"Nobody believed me," Durossette said. "It's great for the kids. They played their hearts out."
"They deserved to celebrate," said Edwards, who was gracious in defeat. "They've been waiting a long time for that."