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Hawks pull away for 41-8 football victory
Central Valley tops Livingston
Moses Ghiorso, pictured right with Anthony Harrison, returned a punt 42 yards for a touchdown in Central Valleys 41-8 rout of host Livingston on Friday. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Livingston staged its homecoming during last week's varsity football game against Central Valley.

The Hawks struggled early before securing a 41-8 victory over the Wolves in Western Athletic Conference play Friday night.

"It was a great atmosphere," Central Valley head coach Jason McCloskey said. "We were fortunate enough to get the win. I have a lot of respect for Livingston. They battled real hard."

Approximately 30 of the Hawks' 48 players, including four starters, were inactive during the first quarter. They were benched for missing practice on Tuesday.

"We're not a program that allows kids to come and go as they choose," McCloskey said. "I was confident in the guys that were replacing them. They did a really good job of stepping up."

Jayden Garcia, one of Central Valley's team captains, started on both the offensive and defensive lines for the first time.

"He works hard in the weight room and does what he's supposed to do in the classroom," McCloskey said.

Hawk star running back Ja'Quan Gardner rumbled for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Gardner's career totals are 4,780 and 53. He needs 360 yards to become the Stanislaus District's all-time leading rusher.

"It's motivating him to do better for his team," McCloskey said.

Hawk quarterback Kendel Johnson ran for 102 yards with one touchdown and one fumble on 10 carries.

Johnson tossed two interceptions while failing to complete a pass (0-for-7).

Sophomore Moses Ghiorso had a memorable debut with the Hawks. He returned a punt 42 yards for a touchdown. He also played cornerback and receiver.

"He's a special talent," McCloskey said.

Central Valley led 21-8 at the break.

Ghiorso accounted for the Hawks' first touchdown.

Gardner scored on runs of 85 and 14 runs in the second quarter.

Jorge Mendoza's 27-yard TD scamper and Servando Ambriz's 2-point conversion run cut the deficit to 14-8.

Johnson raced 20 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and Gardner added two scores (10, 55) in the final period.

"We pretty much did what we set out to accomplish," McCloskey said.

McCloskey didn't like his team's mental mindset prior to kickoff.

"We weren't focused at all," McCloskey said. "I'm glad it didn't bite us in the butt."

Central Valley improved to 4-3 on the year and 1-2 in the WAC standings.

The Wolves dropped to 1-7 and 0-4.

The Hawks need to win two of their final games to secure an at-large playoff berth.

Central Valley will play host to Central Catholic (6-1, 3-0) this Friday at Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff slated for 7 p.m.

"It's our last chance to beat those guys before they leave to the Valley Oak League," McCloskey said. "Maybe this is the game that gets us over the hump. We're the underdogs on paper. CC is supposed to beat us. They're very good at what they do. We're a work in progress. We're going to have to play perfect. It's going to take a lot of mental toughness. Physically, we have the tools to compete with them."