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Hawks earn No. 15 seed for playoffs, face No. 2 Manteca in first round
Central Valley lost 47-20 to Manteca in Week Zero
Central Valley varsity football fans dont have to travel far to watch Fridays Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoff game. The Hawks will compete at Manteca High School. The contest will get underway at 7 p.m. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

The Sac-Joaquin Section released its playoff brackets on Saturday.

Central Valley High School's varsity football team will be making its first-ever postseason appearance.

"I'm so proud of the kids," head coach Jason McCloskey said. "All the credit goes to them. They put in the hard work."

The 15th-seeded Hawks will battle No. 2 Manteca (9-1, 7-0) in the opening round of the Division-III playoffs this Friday at Gus Schmidt Field. Kickoff slated for 7 p.m.

The Hawks became postseason eligible following Friday night's 48-15 thumping of crosstown-rival Ceres High.

Central Valley improved to 6-4 on the year and placed fourth in the Western Athletic Conference standings (3-3). Ceres High finished 2-8 and 1-5 (sixth).

Four teams from the WAC were awarded playoff berths this year, including the Hawks, Central Catholic Raiders (9-1, 6-0), Patterson Tigers (9-1, 5-1) and Pacheco Panthers (7-3, 4-2).

Central Valley lost 47-20 to Manteca in Week Zero.

The Hawks contributed to their own demise by committing two costly turnovers in their own territory. Central Valley was also penalized nine times.

The Hawks piled up 330 yards of total offense in defeat.

Central Valley will be led by Ja'Quan Gardner, Kendel Johnson, Angelo Bermudez, Ben Anitelea, Raul Godinez, Jesus Medina and Josh Beleele.

Gardner, the Stanislaus District's career rushing leader, gained 117 yards and scored one touchdown on 15 carries against Manteca during the regular season.

Ja'Quan's piled up 2,089 yards and 23 TDs on the ground this year.

Johnson passed for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 75 yards on 12 attempts in the loss to Manteca.

Bermudez grabbed three passes for 100 yards and two scores.

Kendel's rushed for 870 yards and eight scores in 10 games.

Anitelea amassed 97 tackles and three sacks through the Hawks' first nine games.

Godinez had 74 tackles, three pass defenses and two interceptions.

Medina had 42 tackles and 51/2 sacks.

Beleele had 48 tackles and four sacks.

Manteca will be led by Alex Laurel, Joe Menzel, Lechi Nkwocha and Billy Sharmoug.

Laurel's racked up 1,800 all-purpose yards and 31 touchdowns.

Alex's rushed for 1,067 yards and 19 TDs.

He's caught 14 passes for 239 yards and seven scores.

Laurel turned in a career-best performance versus the Hawks earlier this year.

He had 307 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.

Alex ran back the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score, had a 55-yard punt return touchdown and scored on a 44-yard reverse run in the first quarter.

He returned a punt 50 yards for a TD in the second quarter.

Menzel's completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,403 yards with 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions in 2013.

Nkwocha's tallied 42 tackles and seven sacks.

Sharmoug's collected 25 tackles and four sacks.

Manteca won all seven of its league games.

Central Valley accomplished a first by making the playoffs this year. The Hawks also made history by reaching the six-win mark for the first time in program history.

MaxPreps Freeman Computer projection has Manteca defeating Central Valley by a score of 44-20 this week.

The winner will face No. 7 Rosemont or No. 10 Casa Roble.

"We're not just happy getting in," McCloskey said. "We feel that with our talent, we can play with anyone. We're explosive on offense. We're tackling people on defense. We're peaking at the right time. I don't think any team wants to play us now."