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Johnson stars at quarterback, Gardner contributes at runnning back in all-star game
Central Valleys Kendel Johnson was named Most Valuable Player after turning in a dominant performance in the Souths 21-21 tie with the North during the Lions All-Star Football Game. Johnson totaled 221 yards and two touchdowns while starring on offense. - photo by DAVE CAMPBELL/The Courier

Central Valley High School had one of the most productive quarterback-running back combinations in the Stanislaus District this past fall.

The electrifying duo racked up 4,469 all-purpose yards and 51 touchdowns while leading the Hawks to their first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance and winning record (6-5).

Kendel Johnson and Ja'Quan Gardner both played major roles as the South battled to a 21-21 tie with the North in the 41st Annual Lions Club All-Star Football Game Saturday night at Tracy High School.

"We had a lot of fun," said Johnson, who starred at quarterback.

"Everybody in the stands was talking about Ja'Quan and Kendel," said Jason McCloskey, head coach at Central Valley the past two seasons. "They were by far the two best players at their positions. The coaches did a great job getting them the ball. I'm really happy for them."

Kendel paced the South offense and was named the contest's Most Valuable Player. He passed for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He led all rushers with 80 yards.

"I wasn't surprised," McCloskey said while talking about Johnson's dominant performance. "I just sat there smiling. I know what Kendel's capable of. He showed off his skills."

"I really missed football," Johnson said. "People saw a different side of me. I'm not just an option quarterback. I can be a pocket passer. I can roll out more. I want everyone to be part of the game. I didn't think I'd be MVP of the whole game. There were so many good athletes out there. It's really special. I did something good for our school and community."

Kendel turned down an invitation to play in the 25th Annual Modesto Sunrise Rotary Baseball Classic. The all-star football and baseball games were played on the same day.

"I love football," said Johnson, who plans to play both sports at Modesto Junior College.

Gardner rushed for 65 yards on 14 carries. Ja'Quan will continue his football career at Humboldt State.

"Ja'Quan is a great leader and player," Johnson said. "It's fun being a quarterback for him. He's the humblest dude I've ever known. I'm like that, too."

Johnson and Gardner will play in the 29th Annual North/South Rotary All-Star Football Game on June 27 at Merced's Golden Valley High School.

Kendel and Ja'Quan will suit up for the North squad.

Kickoff slated for 7:45 p.m.

"Hopefully, we both have outstanding games," Johnson said. "We just want to win."