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Lee-Gill, Hudson, Smith, Stanley help change culture of CHS football
Ricky Stanley
Ricky Stanley was the Bulldogs’ top receiver this past football season. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Seniors Tarrell Lee-Gill, Landyn Hudson, Kahmi Smith and Ricky Stanley ended up turning their promise into a reality while filling key roles on Ceres High School’s football team.

“When we were in middle school, we talked about going to CHS and changing the culture of the football program,” said Hudson, starting quarterback for the Bulldogs since sophomore year. “Our varsity team went 0-10 when we were freshmen. We could have transferred to another high school. We decided to stay. We didn’t run from it (the challenge). We held ourselves to a high standard. We set the tone.”

Ceres High enjoyed a remarkable turnaround thanks in large part to the outstanding play of Lee-Gill, Hudson, Smith and Stanley.

The Bulldogs posted a combined record of 13-9 (8-6 in the Western Athletic Conference) and secured back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs berths from 2021-22.

Ceres High totaled just eight wins from 2016-19, finishing 0-10 in 2019 and 1-9 in 2018.

“We were able to accomplish a lot our last two years because we had the right mindset,” said Smith, a first-team all-WAC linebacker. “We competed at practice. We trusted each other. I never doubted my team and coaches. I knew we’d get the job done. We didn’t worry about the past.”

“It’s a great feeling to be able to accomplish something like that,” Hudson stated. “It wasn’t easy. It was work. We were dedicated to the sport. Everyone held each other accountable.”

“They’ve been a fun group to coach,” said longtime Bulldogs’ leader Brett Johnson, who met Lee-Gill, Hudson, Smith and Stanley for the first time when they were eighth-graders at Mae Hensley Junior High. 

Ceres High enjoyed one of its most productive seasons to date this fall by amassing an 8-3 overall record, finishing second in the WAC standings (5-2) and qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs.

“It’s pretty cool to be remembered as one of the best teams to come through Ceres High,” said Hudson. “It’s not a surprise we were able to be this successful. We knew what we were capable of doing.”

Added Smith: “We believed we could do it.”

Ceres High annexed its first winning record since 2004.

The Bulldogs secured their second consecutive playoff berth. Ceres High ended 16 years of postseason futility in 2021 under Clinton Goblirsch’s guidance.

Just three teams from Ceres High have won eight or more games in the past 37 years.

The Bulldogs went 9-4 and 8-4 in 1985 and 1988, respectively.

“It’s very rare company,” said Hudson. “I wasn’t even aware of that.”

Ceres High snapped a seven-year losing streak versus crosstown-rival Central Valley. The Bulldogs claimed the Ceres Classic perpetual trophy with a thrilling 21-20 win over the Hawks.

“We did a lot of great things,” said Smith.

Ceres High had 10 players earn all-WAC accolades, including Hudson, Smith, Stanley (Second Team), Lee-Gill (Most Valuable Player), Faiva Tuakalau (Defensive Player of the Year), Jeremiah Diaz (co-Defensive Lineman of the Year), Nicholas Vieyra (co-Special Teams Player of the Year) Daniel Baker (First Team), Lebron Stallworth (First Team) and Reis Smith (First Team).

“Everybody played a big role on this team,” said Kahmi Smith. 

Lee-Gill rushed for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 305 yards and three TDs during his final season with the Bulldogs.

Lee-Gill carried the ball 347 times for 2,373 yards and 31 touchdowns and grabbed 33 passes for 625 yards and five TDs in 25 career games.

Hudson threw for 1,615 yards and 16 touchdowns with just four interceptions senior year. He also had seven rushing touchdowns.

Hudson totaled 3,864 yards, 41 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 24 career games. He scored 11 times on the ground.

Smith had 64 tackles, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and four pass deflections this year.

He totaled 139 tackles, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, half a sack, one interception and seven pass deflections in 22 career games.

The Bulldogs compiled a 5-6 overall record, finished fifth in the WAC (3-4) and advanced to the Division-V playoffs in 2021.

“Ceres High was really good in the 1980s and 1990s,” Hudson said. “We wanted to take our football program to the next level. Our class had a big effect on changing the culture at Ceres High.”

Tarrell Lee-Gill and Landyn Hudson pic
Tarrell Lee-Gill and Landyn Hudson played key roles during the Ceres High football program’s remarkable turnaround. Lee-Gill and Hudson starred at running back and quarterback. - photo by Dale Butler
Linebacker Kahmi Smith
Linebacker Kahmi Smith was Ceres High’s vocal and emotional leader. - photo by DALE BUTLER/ Courier file photo