By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gardner, Quezada teaming up at Humboldt State
Central Valley grads JaQuan Gardner (32) and Gabriel Quezada are playing football together at Humboldt State this fall. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Two former Central Valley High School football standouts are suiting up for the same college team this season.

Senior Ja'Quan Gardner and freshman Gabriel Quezada will don Humboldt State uniforms.

"To have another kid from Central Valley here is pretty cool," Gardner said. "We're opening doors for everybody. Attention is being brought to our high school."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Quezada stated. ‘We're not only representing Central Valley. We're also representing the city of Ceres. It's definitely an honor."

Gardner and Quezada find themselves on the opposite ends of their college careers.

Ja'Quan has already established himself as Humboldt State's all-time greatest running back.

Gabriel has learned quickly how overwhelming life can be as a student-athlete.

"It's definitely a lot different than high school," Quezada said. "I don't have a lot of down time. I'll get used to it. It's a process."

"Any time he has a question, I'll help him out," Gardner said.

Gardner will add to his legacy in 2017.

Ja'Quan shattered 10 team records during his first three seasons with the Lumberjacks, 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).

Gardner rumbled for 1,300 yards and 18 TDs while helping Humboldt State secure its third straight winning season during his junior year.
He was selected to the NCAA Division-II Conference Commissioner's Association All-America Team for the second consecutive season.

Ja'Quan finished second in voting for the Harlon Hill award, the D2 football's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, in 2015. Gardner was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He ranked first in the nation in rushing yards (2,266), rushing yards per game (188.8), and rushing touchdowns (25).

"I'm not surprised at what he's doing," Magni said. "He'll keep succeeding because of his talent and desire. He loves playing football."

"I watched him in high school," Quezada said. "Now, I'm a teammate. He's someone I look up to. He puts others before himself. That's something I learned from him."

"Every time you step on the field you always want to be better than you were the last time," Gardner said. "There's always more to prove."

Recruited to play defensive end at Humboldt State, 6-foot-4 264-pound Quezada will contribute at tight end instead.

Gabriel was named Western Athletic Conference Outstanding Defensive Lineman his senior year at Central Valley.

He racked up 44 tackles, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 11 games.

"Not many freshmen get an opportunity to play," Quezada said. "I got moved to the offensive side of the ball. It's going to be a challenging transition."

"He switched positions without questions," Gardner said. "He wants to help the team out."

Humboldt State compiled a 6-5 overall record and placed third in the GNAC standings (3-5) last fall.

In 2015, the Lumberjacks finished 10-2 and earned their first playoff win in 47 years.

Humboldt State captured the GNAC championship with a perfect 6-0 mark.

"The expectations are very high," Quezada said. "We're returning 20 seniors. We have NFL talent on the team. We're going to have a solid season."

Added Gardner: "We have a lot of experience."