Central Valley's and Ceres High's varsity football teams battled for more than bragging rights last week.
The Hawks and Bulldogs both had extra motivation going into the Eighth Annual Paws vs. Claws Crosstown Showdown game.
Reduced to playing the role of spoiler, Ceres High fell well short in its bid to end Central Valley's season.
The Hawks secured their first-ever playoff berth with a 48-15 win over the Bulldogs in front of a standing-room-only crowd Friday night.
"It's special," Central Valley head coach Jason McCloskey said. "I'm so proud of the kids. They played with a lot of determination. They'll be talking about this game for the rest of their lives."
The Hawks improved to 6-4 and finished fourth in the Western Athletic Conference (3-3).
The Bulldogs compiled a 2-8 record and placed sixth in WAC play (1-5).
Central Valley star running back Ja'Quan Gardner gained 320 yards and scored four touchdowns on just 13 carries. He also tossed a 23-yard TD pass to Kendel Johnson.
Johnson, Hawk quarterback, rushed for 100 yards and one TD on six carries.
All-purpose standout Angelo Bermudez carried the ball nine times for 158 yards and one score.
Raul Godinez registered eight tackles and one sack.
Sophomore Moses Ghiorso tallied seven tackles, forced one fumble and intercepted one pass.
Marcus Clark chipped in with seven tackles, two pass defenses and one interception.
Alex Medina had three tackles and one fumble recovery.
"Coach called it a trap game," Gardner said. "They had nothing to lose. We had playoffs to lose. We didn't want to have a letdown so we came out and played hard. Our defense stepped up. It's a big win. This is the best feeling I've had any time I've played football. We've been waiting for this for years."
Ceres High's Brad Bussard completed 24 of 39 passes for 306 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Dylan Canatsy caught nine passes for 136 yards and one TD.
Juan Anderson totaled 58 yards and one score on three receptions.
Dominic Durossette, Harman Chung, Brent Bussard and Jimmy Bates finished with 43, 40, 18 and 11 receiving yards, respectively.
Albert Miranda was the Bulldogs' top rusher. He ran for 23 yards on eight carries.
Domingo Bermudez, older brother of Central Valley's Angelo Bermudez, collected a team-high eight tackles to lead Ceres High.
Ramon Coral had three tackles and two fumble recoveries.
The Bulldogs racked up 19 first downs and 370 yards of offense.
Central Valley found itself ahead 34-15 at halftime thanks in large part to four Ceres High turnovers, including three in the red zone.
The Hawks stopped the Bulldogs twice at the 1-yard line.
Ceres High running back Brent Bussard fumbled on fourth down.
Brad Bussard threw a pick to Ghiorso in the end zone while trying to complete a pass to Canatsy.
Clark picked off Brad Bussard in the end zone as well to kill a potential Ceres High scoring drive.
The Hawks overcame a shaky start.
Central Valley fumbled two of its first three snaps of the rivalry game.
"I wasn't nervous," Hawk linebacker Ben Anitelea said. "I knew my team was going to come through. We wanted the win so much. We needed it to get to playoffs. It means a lot. We were confident but not cocky going into the game. We prepared for Ceres High. They're a good team."
Gardner scored his third and fourth rushing TDs in the third quarter.
Ja'Quan watched from the sideline during the fourth quarter.
Central Valley beat Ceres High for the seventh straight year. The Bulldogs could have prevented the Hawks from making history.
"It took us all season to become this team," McCloskey said. "We're peaking at the right time. We're still getting better. I guarantee you nobody is going to want to see us in the playoffs. Confidence is contagious. We got that little bit of swagger right now."
"Our goal is to make a run," Gardner added. "We know we're going to have to play a pretty good seed. We're going to try to make some noise. We're going to ride this until the wheels fall off."