Ja'Quan Gardner and Kendel Johnson couldn't have written a better script to the end of their prep football careers.
Competing in their second all-star game in three weeks, the 2014 Central Valley High School graduates both played key roles while leading their team to a lopsided victory.
Gardner accounted for three touchdowns and Johnson added one score as the North topped the South 35-13 in the 29th North-South Rotary All-Star Football Game Friday night at Golden Valley's Veterans Stadium.
"It was an honor to play in the game," Gardner said. "We tried to put on a good show."
Ja'Quan rumbled for two scores and hauled in one TD pass.
"I was actually surprised," Gardner said while talking about his three-touchdown performance. "I was wide open. You could have scored."
Kendel had one TD pass while splitting time at quarterback with Turlock's Sean Downs.
"When I got in, I made the most of it," Johnson said. "We ran the same offense as the first game. It was easier because we had a lot of speed."
Kendel and Ja'Quan helped lead the South to a 21-21 tie versus the North in the 41st Annual Lions Club All-Star Football Game on June 14 at Tracy High School.
Johnson, the game's Most Valuable Player, passed for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He led all rushers with 80 yards.
Gardner gained 65 yards on 14 carries.
Ja'Quan's and Kendel's all-star teams compiled a 1-0-1 record under Merced High School Rob Scheidt's guidance.
"I give a lot of the credit to him and his staff," Gardner said. "He's an amazing coach. He really knows what he's doing."
Gardner and Johnson represented Central Valley one last time this past week.
"It was a nice way to end our careers," Kendel said. "Both of us stood out. We wanted to show everybody we have good athletes in Ceres."
Added Ja'Quan: "It was a fun experience."
Gardner and Johnson were teammates in football, basketball and track and field.
"Other teams didn't know what to do against me and Ja'Quan in football," Johnson said. "That's what I'm going to miss the most."
"The playoff game was memorable," said Gardner, who rumbled for 378 yards and totaled five touchdowns during the Central Valley football squad's 69-55 loss to eventual Division-III section champion Manteca in the opening round. "We had a great team. My whole senior year was great. In high school, you build lifelong friendships."
Ja'Quan earned a football scholarship to Division-II Humboldt State.
Kendel plans to play football and baseball for Modesto Junior College.
Gardner, a three-year varsity tailback, broke the Stanislaus District's career and single-season rushing yard records.
He rushed for 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns his senior year. Ja'Quan totaled 6,014 yards and 67 TDs in 31 career games.
Kendel, a dual-threat QB, rushed for 1,091 yards and 11 touchdowns this past year. He passed for 783 yards with 10 TDs and eight interceptions. Johnson also had a 23-yard TD catch.
"All I'm thinking about is getting better and playing up at a higher level," Johnson said. "I know Ja'Quan is going to do big things. He's a smart, humble guy. He has my full support. We'll always be good friends no matter what."
"It was fun playing with Kendel," Gardner said. "He's one of the best athletes I've been around. Somebody is going to pick him up. I just want to contribute at the next level, whether it's playing a little bit or a lot. I need to work harder than ever. The speed of the game is faster. Everybody is smarter."