Central Valley High School’s football team closed out the 2022 season on the road this past week.
The previously-winless El Capitan Gauchos pulled away for a 31-14 victory against the Hawks Thursday evening in Merced.
Injury-ravaged Central Valley had just 23 players in uniform for the Central California Conference finale.
“Losing our final game is depressing especially for us seniors,” Hawks’ all-purpose player Elijah “Booty” Jackson said. “It’s really disappointing. Half of our team was injured. Even though we didn’t have all of our players, we still tried and balled out the last couple games.”
The Hawks (2-8. 1-5) tied for last place in the CCC standings with the Gauchos (1-9, 1-5).
“It’s not what we wanted,” Central Valley head coach Derrick Goblirsch said. “But I appreciate the hard work.”
Booty Jackson and sophomore Mikey Brazil logged playing time at quarterback. They filled in for junior Darrius Jackson, who re-aggravated a knee injury at practice leading up to the game.
“It changed our game plan a lot,” Goblirsch said. “Darrius has been the majority of our offense.”
Darrius Jackson, Booty’s younger brother, passed for 851 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 476 yards and one TD in nine games.
“We would have put up a lot more points with him,” Booty Jackson said.
Booty Jackson rushed for a team-high 86 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
He attempted just one pass.
“It was a little stressful,” said Jackson, a 260-pound senior. “But at the same time I’ve been there before. I know exactly what to do at the QB position. I got to show my true skill as a big person and in front of a lot of people.”
Booty Jackson contributed at tight end, running back, quarterback and defensive tackle during his final season with the Hawks.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Goblirsch. “He’s been our rock when things have gone bad. We’ve leaned on him heavily.”
Slowed by an ankle injury, Brazil completed 4 of 14 passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions while making his first start at the varsity level.
He was originally promoted from Central Valley’s junior-varsity squad to play receiver.
“When Darrius got hurt, Mikey got thrust into the first QB role,” Goblirsch said. “I know he was nervous. We tried to simplify things. We liked what we saw from him. He’s a good athlete.”
The Hawks’ new-look offense totaled 194 yards and five turnovers versus the Gauchos.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Goblirsch said. “That’s been our kryptonite all year.”
Jayson Casias caught two passes for 41 yards and ran for 24 yards on seven carries.
Anthony Ramirez totaled 20 yards on one reception.
Daniel Mendoza gained 13 yards on three carries.
Joshua Hale and Amari O’Bryant led Central Valley’s defense with 10 tackles apiece.
Ramirez had nine tackles and one pass deflection.
Tristan Villicana had nine tackles.
Joey Zuniga had six tackles.
Davis Lewis had five tackles and three pass deflections.
Uriel Mendoza both had five tackles.
Ricardo Perez had four tackles.
Josiah Sandoval had three tackles and one pass deflection.
Casias had three tackles.
Down 21-14 in the second quarter, Central Valley fell behind by two scores after El Capitan returned an interception for a touchdown.
“That was a big turning point in the game,” Goblirsch said. “That was when the momentum shifted. You could feel it on the sidelines.”
El Capitan handed Central Valley its fifth consecutive loss.
“It was a winnable game,” said Goblirsch.
“We could have done better,” Booty Jackson added.
The Hawks were outscored 355-149 this fall.
Central Valley had five different players contribute at quarterback, including Brazil, Booty Jackson, Darrius Jackson, Diego Delahoya and Mario Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, Central Valley’s starter, sustained a season-ending injury during the third game of the season. He broke his left collarbone in a 21-20 loss to crosstown-rival Ceres High.
“Our offense has changed so much throughout the year based on who was playing quarterback,” Goblirsch said.
The grind of playing in the CCC took a physical toll on Central Valley this fall.
“The season didn’t go as expected,” Booty Jackson stated. “It was a struggle because of injuries.”
“Our goal is to be able to compete in this league,” Goblirsch said. “It starts with the offseason work we do. Hopefully, this is a wakeup call. They need to work harder and buy into the program.”