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Former Hawk Gardner an OAA finalist
JaQuan Gardner - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club's 50th and final Outstanding Athlete Awards banquet will be held this evening in Modesto.

For the second year in a row, Ja'Quan Gardner is a finalist in the College/Open Men's Division.

Gardner, a Central Valley grad and junior at Humboldt State, was named Male High School Athlete of the Year in 2014.

"I'm not surprised at all," said Greg Magni, Central Valley's athletic director. "He's done incredible things over there his entire career. He's so dynamic. His numbers pop off the page."

Gardner starred at running back while helping Humboldt State's football team secure its third straight winning season (6-5) this past fall.

Ja'Quan was named to the NCAA Division-II Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) All-America Team for the second year in a row.

The second-team pick rushed for a Great Northwest Athletic Conference-leading 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Ja'Quan ranked 10th in Division II in TDs and total rushing yards, 13th in rushing yards per game (118.2) and 14th in all-purpose yards per game (159.9).

He also caught 42 passes for 324 yards and one TD.

Gardner had 1,759 all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns.

Ja'Quan earned CCA Super Region Three First Team honors for the second straight season.

He garnered first-team all-GNAC recognition for the second consecutive year.

Gardner ran for a program-best 313 yards and scored two touchdowns on a career-high 43 carries during the Lumberjacks' 28-14 win over Western State Colorado.

Ja'Quan also set a GNAC record with 375 all-purpose yards.

Gardner has already cemented his place in history as Humboldt State's greatest running back by shattering 10 team records, including rushing yardage in a career (4,121), rushing yardage in a season (2,266), rushing yardage in a single game (313), touchdowns scored in a career (53), touchdowns scored in a season (25), touchdowns scored in a game (5), points scored in a career (318), points scored in a season (150), points scored in a game (30) and longest rushing play (87).

"We keep in touch via text," Magni said. "I've watched him play a few times. He's come back to our campus when he's been out of school. He's the same Ja'Quan. He's always smiling ear to ear. I think what's special about what he's doing now is he's a huge part of turning around a football program. He's a great role model for our kids."

Ja'Quan became the first athlete from Central Valley High School to be named the SOS Club's Male High School Athlete of the Year in 2014.

Gardner, a three-year starter, broke the Stanislaus District's single-season rushing yards record during his final season with the Hawks.

He totaled 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games. Homer Garza set the previous mark (2,195) in 1997 with Hughson.

Ja'Quan also ranked first on the Stanislaus District's career rushing yards list (6,014) when he graduated from Central Valley. He eclipsed Central Catholic star Louis Bland's all-time record. Bland (2004-07) piled up 5,140 yards in 47 games.

Gardner tallied a program-best 67 TDs.

The SOS Club's OAA banquet will be staged tonight at 7. Recent Ceres High grad/University of Washington freshman softball standout Nicole Bates is a finalist in the High School Girls Division.

"There's so much talent in our area," Magni said.