It was a year like any other for athletes and teams from high schools throughout the United States as sports calendars were shuffled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Playoffs were eliminated.
Coronavirus safety measures had to be followed.
Ceres High and Central Valley managed to enjoy individual and team success despite those challenges.
The Bulldogs and Hawks had a combined seven athletes win league Most Valuable Player awards.
Ceres High and Central Valley sports teams won a combined 10 conference titles.
“Every year is different,” Ceres High boys soccer head coach Gilbert Zamora Jr. said. “I personally think we got tested just one or two times in league this season. We were a step ahead of everybody. We played as a team. We had a lot of communication. We trained hard. That was the difference.”
Central Valley’s Isaiah Hidalgo (football), Matteo Bonales (boys golf), Amelia Daoheung (girls golf), Angie Medrano (girls soccer) and Gabrial Lopez (baseball), and Ceres High’s Alysabeth Marquez (girls golf) and Brooklyn Heffernan (softball) were all voted conference MVPS in their respective sports.
A standout running back as a junior and sophomore, Hidalgo contributed at quarterback during his final season.
He ran for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns on 134 carries.
He passed for 189 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Hidalgo caught two passes for 52 yards.
Bonales, a junior, compiled a near-perfect 7-1 record against WAC South competition.
Daoheung, a junior, and Marquez, a sophomore, shared the WAC South MVP award.
They compiled identical 5-1 records while filling the top spots in their teams’ lineups.
Daoheung was selected the Central California Conference’s Most Valuable Player sophomore year.
Lopez, a junior pitcher, posted a perfect 7-0 record with a 0.60 earned-run average, one no-hitter, three shutouts, six complete games, 84 strikeouts and just 18 walks.
Heffernan, a junior pitcher/outfielder, was named league MVP for the second time in three years. She posted a 10-0 record in WAC South play with a 0.88 earned-run average, 118 strikeouts, seven complete games and one save. Heffernan batted .375 from the plate with one home run, one triple, seven doubles, 17 RBIs, 22 runs and four stolen bases. She had on-base, slugging and on-base plus slugging percentages of .485, .589 and 1.074, respectively.
Ceres High’s softball team placed first in the 2021 WAC South standings with a perfect 15-0 record.
The Bulldogs (16-3 overall) outscored their opponents, 206-44.
Ceres High finished ahead of Los Banos (9-4), Central Valley (8-7), Pacheco (7-8) and Johansen (0-15).
“The girls play for each other,” head coach Mike Corsaut said. “They don’t care about stats. They care about winning as a team.”
Ceres High’s boys golf team won all eight of its conference matches.
The Bulldogs swept Central Valley (6-2), Los Banos (3-4), Johansen (1-6) and Pacheco (0-8).
A year removed from not fielding a girls golf team due to a lack of interest, Ceres High captured a share of the WAC South crown. The Bulldogs and Pacheco Panthers compiled identical 6-2 records.
Ceres High’s boys water polo team won six of seven matches on its way to finishing in first place in the WAC South standings.
The Bulldogs finished ahead of Los Banos (4-3-1), Johansen (4-4) and Pacheco (0-6-1).
Ceres High won two of three matches versus Los Banos.
“All the guys stepped up this year,” head coach Stephen Dias said. “They did a fantastic job. They had a really good bond. They’d go out to dinner together.”
Ceres High’s girls water polo team finished atop the WAC South standings with a 7-1 record.
The Bulldogs claimed the conference title outright with a 14-9 victory at Los Banos.
Elise Cannella led the Ceres High in scoring with five goals.
Andrea Contreras and Allison McAdams both had four goals.
Katie Hensley had one goal.
The Bulldogs finished one game ahead of the Tigers (6-2) in the league standings.
“They went in knowing it was going to be a hard game,” Dias said. “They played off each other really well.”
A year removed from placing third in the WAC standings, Ceres High’s boys soccer team claimed the 2020-21 league championship with an 8-1-1 mark.
“After losing 12 seniors, I was a little worried (heading into the season),” Zamora said. “But we had a lot of younger players step up. It was a complete team effort.”
“I’m happy we finished in first place,” he added. “That’s been our goal for the past three years.”
Ceres High boys track and field took first in the WAC South dual standings.
The Bulldogs amassed a 4-0 record.
Ceres High collected wins against Johansen (90-11), Central Valley (78-37), Pacheco (74-59) and Los Banos (81-39).
Central Valley’s football completed its first undefeated season and captured its second league title.
Central Valley had a perfect 5-0 overall record and placed first with a 4-0 mark in the WAC South standings.
The Hawks finished 4-6 the previous season and struggled to an 2-8 record in 2018-19.
“The whole season, we played for each other,” third-year varsity player Isaiah Hidalgo said. “We played for the coaches, too. They put so much time and effort into the season.”
Central Valley’s baseball team made program history by claiming its first-ever league title.
The Hawks won eight of nine games versus WAC South competition.
Central Valley compiled a 14-4 overall record.
The Hawks went 2-5-1 during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.
“It’s definitely special,” senior outfielder Isaiah Hidalgo said. “We’ve never had a year like this.”
Central Valley’s girls soccer team (7-1-2) edged out crosstown-rival Ceres High (7-1-1) by just one point for the league title.
The Hawks beat and tied the Bulldogs once in conference play.
“It’s very special,” head coach Miguel Larranaga said. “I’m happy for the girls. They earned it. It wasn’t easy. It could have gone the other way.”
“The chemistry was very good this year,” he added. “There was no drama. Everybody was positive. The girls supported and motivated each other.”