Central Valley High School’s reign over crosstown-rival Ceres High School in football came to a screeching halt last week.
The Bulldogs escaped with a narrow 21-20 victory against the Hawks in front of a record-breaking crowd Friday evening at CUSD Stadium.
Central Valley emergency quarterback Elijah “Booty” Jackson’s potential go-ahead 2-point conversion pass to Hawk backup tight end Juan Alonzo was broken up by Ceres High sophomore cornerback Reis Smith in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
“It was the right decision to go for it and the right play call,” Hawks’ head coach Derrick Goblirsch said. “If I had to make the decision again, I’d do the same thing. When you’re down to second and third-string quarterbacks, you don’t want to keep playing. You want to win then. We had so much momentum. Unfortunately, we didn’t pull it out.”
“Everybody thought Ceres High was going to blow us out,” Hawks’ linebacker/kicker Luis Munoz said. “They didn’t expect the game to be as close as it was. We proved everyone wrong. We know what we can do as a team. We played our game. We fought hard until the end. We just fell short by a little bit.”
Ceres High players and coaches celebrated under the lights with the Ceres Classic perpetual trophy while Goblirsch addressed his team after the game.
The narrow loss snapped the Hawks’ seven-year winning streak against the Bulldogs.
Central Valley won 14 of the previous 16 matchups between the two schools.
“I’m super proud of my team’s effort,” Goblirsch said. “It would have been easy for them to give up after our (starting) quarterback got injured. We were right there at the end. It was competitive and exciting. We have two tough football teams in this town.”
The Hawks surprisingly had a chance to win the crosstown game despite being beset by injuries and turnovers.
Elijah Jackson, Central Valley’s 260-pound tight end, finished the contest at quarterback after Hawk backup/younger brother Darrius Jackson was relegated to the sidelines with a leg cramp in the fourth quarter.
Mario Gonzalez, Central Valley’s starting QB, sustained a fractured left collarbone early in the third quarter and didn’t return to the game.
“We lucked out,” Goblirsch said. We put in a Wildcat package for Booty after the Pitman game. We wanted to find ways to put the ball in his hands. He’s one of our better athletes. He’s special. I’m glad we practiced it because I would have never guessed we would have had to go to that. We transitioned with ease.”
“We had no other quarterbacks,” Elijah Jackson said. “We had to use me at the end. I wasn’t nervous. I was ready for it. I’ve been playing football for 12 years. I analyze every position.”
The Hawks opted to go for the potential, game-winning 2-point conversion after Elijah Jackson’s 18-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 21-20 with 1:33 left in regulation.
“We practiced the play prior to this week,” Goblirsch said. “I thought we had it. Their defender made a heads up play. He saw our tight end leak out and reacted perfectly. He happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
“Sometimes, you got to take risks and see what happens,” Elijah Jackson added. “It was a good play call.”
Central Valley contributed to its own demise as Ceres High forced two fumbles and intercepted one pass during the course of the game.
The Hawks’ second-to-last possession ended with a turnover as Darrius Jackson fumbled the ball forward before crossing the goal line on a running play. Bulldog defensive back Izaiah Rodriguez recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Central Valley players, coaches and fans watched helplessly as Ceres High quarterback Landyn Hudson took a knee to end the game.
His 6-yard QB keeper on second-5 allowed the Bulldogs to run the final one-plus minute off the clock.
Surrounded by Ceres High teammates, Hudson planted a Bulldog flag at midfield at the conclusion of the game.
“It definitely hurt to see them celebrate because I know we could have won that game,” Munoz said.
Central Valley limited Ceres High’s high-powered offense to just 198 total yards and 21 points.
The Bulldogs averaged 385.5 yards and 45 points through their first two games.
“Our defense kept us in the game,” Goblirsch said. “They had a lot of huge stops. I’m not surprised at all. We play them so often. We’re familiar with how those guys are and how we want to attack them.”
Ceres High standout tailback Tarrell Lee-Gill mustered just 49 yards on 16 carries. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Lee-Gill rushed for 205 yards and five TDs and caught four passes for 98 yards and two scores prior to facing the Hawks.
Hudson finished with just 130 yards while completing 10 of his 22 pass attempts. He had three touchdown passes.
Ricky Stanley caught five passes for 77 yards and one TD.
Manuel Mendoza’s lone catch resulted in an 18-yard touchdown.
Lebron Stallworth had 6 yards and one score on two receptions.
“Coach (Brian) Borges put a good game plan together and our guys completed it to near-perfection,” Goblirsch said. “Our goal was to wear them down and we did. We just gave up a couple big plays.”
Tristan Villicana led Central Valley’s defense with six tackles and one sack.
Joshua Hale tallied five tackles and one sack.
Felix Arellano collected eight tackles.
Darrius Jackson, Anthony Ramirez and Luis Munoz all registered six tackles.
David Lewis totaled five tackles.
Juan Casarez and Jossue Ruiz both had three tackles.
Linebacker Smiley Malagon was sidelined with a knee injury.
“Our defense played amazing,” Munoz said. “We played hard every snap. We knew if we stopped Tarrell and put pressure on Landyn, we’d have a chance to win the game.”
The Hawks amassed 270 yards of total offense in defeat.
Gonzalez completed 5 of 11 passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns and one interception prior to exiting the game with an injury. He carried the ball 10 times for 43 yards.
Darrius Jackson rushed for a team-high 66 yards on 13 attempts while filling in for Gonzalez.
“The game plan changed with him,” Goblirsch said. “We ran the plays he was comfortable with. He did a fantastic job.”
“I’m proud of my brother for what he did,” Elijah Jackson said. “He stepped up.”
Jayson Casias caught six passes for 101 yards and one TD.
Amari O’Bryant had an 18-yard touchdown reception.
Anthony Ramirez totaled 37 yard on one catch.
Elijah Jackson ran for 29 yards and one touchdown on three carries.
“We all had fun,” Elijah Jackson said. “Both teams played really well.”
“We had to put on a show for the town and I believe we did,” Munoz said.
Central Valley dropped to 1-2 overall.
Ceres High improved to 3-0.
The Hawks will battle the Enochs Eagles (1-2) this Friday at Johansen High School.
Kickoff slated for 7 p.m.