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Shorthanded Hawks struggle to execute in 29-7 homecoming loss to Panthers
Thirteen CV players miss league opener due to suspension
Kendel Johnson (3) and Central Valleys varsity football team struggled to keep pace with Pacheco on Friday at Bulldog Stadium. The Panthers spoiled the Hawks homecoming with a 29-7 victory. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ja'Quan Gardner's limp worsened as the night wore on.

Slowed by a knee injury sustained just before halftime, the senior running back and his Central Valley High School varsity football teammates struggled to keep pace with Pacheco.

Gardner offered no excuses after the Panthers pulled away for a 29-7 homecoming-spoiling victory over the Hawks Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.

"Give Pacheco credit," he said. "They played good defense today. Our defense played great. Our offense couldn't get it clicking. It's pretty frustrating. I feel like we let our fans down. It's going to motivate us to play harder next week."

Thirteen Central Valley players, including five defensive starters, were not allowed to participate or attend last week's contest. Twelve of those players were handed one-game suspensions for leaving the sideline and stepping onto the field when an altercation broke out at Madera South the previous week. The two players involved in the fracas, one from each team, were immediately ejected.

"We played shorthanded," Central Valley head coach Jason McCloskey said. "We had guys going both ways. They just wore us out. That's what it came down to."

The Hawks dropped to 3-2 on the year and 0-1 in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Panthers improved to 4-1 and 1-0.

Pacheco defeated Central Valley 30-20 last year in Los Banos.

The Panthers edged out the Hawks for the Sac-Joaquin Section's final Division-III playoff berth.

Pacheco advanced to the postseason for the first time in just its second year of existence. Central Valley, which started competing at the varsity level in 2006, has yet to accomplish that feat.

The Panthers limited Gardner to 75 yards and no touchdowns on 15 carries. Ja'Quan caught three passes for 16 yards. He played sparingly after tweaking his left knee while falling awkwardly near Pacheco's sideline during the second quarter.

"It hurt him," McCloskey said. "He could not explode like he wanted. He's a special talent. He does change the dynamic of the team."

Central Valley quarterback Kendel Johnson completed 9 of 20 passes for 99 yards and rushed for 21 yards on four carries.

Hawk all-purpose player Angelo Bermudez scored on a 5-yard run and totaled 30 yards on two receptions.

Milton Uti had four catches for 63 yards.

Central Valley junior defensive end Josh Beleele collected nine tackles and two sacks.

Raul Godinez had 11 tackles.

Ben Anitelea tallied eight tackles.

Christian Romo added six tackles and one sack.

Pacheco running back Frank Ginda set two school records against shorthanded Central Valley.

The 6-foot-2, 227-pound junior rumbled for 290 yards on 31 carries.

He scored two touchdowns.

"It's like Pop Warner for him," McCloskey said. "He's a big kid that runs people over. He's a beast."

The Hawks trailed 14-7 at halftime.

Pacheco outscored Central Valley 15-0 in the second half.

"I'm proud of the effort," McCloskey said. "We just didn't execute. We have to get better."

Central Valley will compete at full-strength when it challenges Patterson (4-0) on the road this Friday at 7 p.m. The Hawks squandered a lead late while losing 21-20 to the Tigers in 2012.