Senior running back Tarrell Lee-Gill made program history by becoming the first football player from Ceres High School to be named league MVP in the last 37 years.
Former Bulldog quarterback/head coach Bret Durossette was voted Most Valuable Player of the Golden Valley League in 1985.
“It means a lot,” said Lee-Gill, MVP of the Western Athletic Conference. “Not a lot of players from CHS have been able to get the award. The award shows what we did as a team on offense. I give my line a lot of credit. They did a really good job. It was surprising to me how open the holes would be some times.”
“I can’t recall the last time we’ve had a league MVP,” Ceres High leader Brett Johnson said. “That’s what I expected based on what Tarrell did and how he performed in the biggest games. He got what he deserved.”
Lee-Gill and nine of his Ceres High teammates were recognized during the WAC year-end coaches meeting on Nov. 8 in Los Banos.
Lee-Gill, Faiva Tuakalau, Jeremiah Diaz, Nicholas Vieyra, Landyn Hudson, Daniel Baker, Lebron Stallworth, Kahmi Smith, Reis Smith and Ricky Stanley were honored for propelling the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the conference standings (5-2).
“The kids were rewarded for their hard work and performance on the field,” Johnson said. “It’s a sign of respect from the other coaches.”
“We had a great season,” Lee-Gill stated. “I wish we were still playing.”
Lee-Gill also earned first-team all-WAC honors.
He gained 989 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in seven league games. He also caught 10 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown.
Lee-Gill rushed for 2,323 yards and 31 touchdowns and grabbed 33 passes for 625 yards and five TDs during his three-year varsity career with the Bulldogs.
“He was a game-changer,” Johnson said.
“I just wanted to win,” Lee-Gill added.
Tuakalau was named WAC Defensive Player of the Year.
He was also a first-team all-conference offensive lineman. He started at tackle.
“I’m so proud of him,” Johnson said. “For him to do what he was able to do was amazing.”
Tuakalau had 42 tackles, one sack, one interception and one pass deflection at linebacker.
“He was a consistent player,” Johnson said. “He led our team in tackles.”
Tuakalau enjoyed success while playing a different position on defense.
He contributed at defensive end junior year.
“It (linebacker) was a natural position for him and his size,” Johnson said. “He was always asking questions. He was willing to learn. He was coachable.”
Diaz was named co-WAC Defensive Lineman of the Year.
The senior had 28 tackles, including five for a loss, and one sack.
“He was double teamed most of the time because he couldn’t be blocked one on one,” Johnson said. “He never gave up on a play. Our defensive philosophy was 11 men to the ball—play snap to whistle.”
Vieyra was named WAC co-Special Teams Player of the Year for his contributions at kicker.
The senior made six of seven fields, converted 18 of 24 point-after kicks and totaled 13 touchbacks.
“He was very consistent,” Johnson said. “He had a very strong leg.”
Hudson, Baker, Stallworth, Kahmi Smith and Reis Smith were all selected to the WAC First Team.
Hudson, a senior quarterback, passed for 860 yards with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions.
He rushed for 248 yards and six TDs on 44 carries.
A three-year starter, Hudson totaled 3,864 yards, 41 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
He also had 11 rushing TDs.
“I’ve always been impressed with Landyn since freshman year,” Johnson said. “She’s a fierce competitor. His elusiveness and toughness running the ball surprised me.”
Baker, a senior, started at guard on the Bulldogs’ offensive line.
“He’s such a smart kid,” Johnson said. “He was very durable. I don’t think he missed a snap.”
Stallworth, a senior defensive end, had 24 tackles, two sacks, four quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two pass deflections.
“He had a great year,” Johnson said.
Kahmi Smith, a senior linebacker, had 34 tackles, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and one pass deflection.
“He was the vocal and emotional leader,” Johnson said. “His pursuit was crazy. He’d make tackles on the opposite side of the field.”
Reis Smith, a sophomore defensive back, had 33 tackles, three interceptions and five pass deflections.
“I’m really happy for him,” Johnson said. “His confidence grew throughout the year. He did a lot for us.”
Stanley, a senior receiver, was selected to the WAC Second Team.
He finished with 318 yards and three touchdowns on 17 receptions.
“I thought he was a First-Team receiver,” Johnson said. “He made some nice plays for us this year. He helped solidify our receiving corps.”