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Gridiron honors pouring in for CV graduate
JaQuan Gardner

Central Valley High School grad Ja'Quan Gardner was the recipient of great news twice this past week.

Gardner was named a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the NCAA Division-II College Football Player of the Year Award, on Wednesday.

He was selected to the D2 Conference Commissioners Association All-Region First Team on Friday.

"It's a blessing," said Gardner, a standout senior running back at Humboldt State.

Ja'Quan was nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy for the second time in three seasons.

The field of 33 student-athletes was narrowed down to eight finalists.

The winner will be announced on Dec. 15 and honored on the University of North Alabama Campus at a luncheon on Jan. 5.

"It wasn't a goal," said Gardner, who finished second in voting for the NCAA Division-II College Football Player of the Year Award in 2015. "Win or lose, I'm satisfied just getting nominated and being one of the finalists. It's a prestigious honor."

Ja'Quan enjoyed a record-breaking four-year career with the Lumberjacks.

He was voted Great Northwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second time in four seasons on Nov. 15.

Gardner ranked first in the conference in rushing yards (1,259) and rushing touchdowns (19).

He averaged 125.9 yards per game and 6.2 yards per attempt.

Gardner became the GNAC's all-time leader in touchdowns scored (75), points scored (450), all-purpose yards (6,979), all-purpose yards per game (170.2), rushing attempts (878), rushing yards (5,426) and rushing touchdowns (70).

He set GNAC single-game marks with 446 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns, and tied another league record with five rushing TDs during Humboldt State's 52-49 Homecoming win over Azusa Pacific.

Ja'Quan's performance earned him GNAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for a record-tying ninth time.

The Lumberjacks compiled an 8-2 overall record and finished in second place in the conference standings (6-2) this fall.

Humboldt State's two losses were to unbeaten Central Washington (11-0, 8-0).

The Wildcats dashed the Lumberjacks' GNAC title hopes.

"We played great this year," Gardner said. "I couldn't be prouder of my teammates."