Surrounded by coaches, teammates, friends and family members, Central Valley High School’s Ozzie Ramos and Ja’Quan Gardner penned their signatures on national letters of intent during special ceremonies on campus yesterday.
Ramos and Gardner will continue their education and playing careers at San Diego State and Humboldt State, respectively.
“It’s very special,” Ozzie said. “I feel honored. Soccer’s been a part of my life for 17 years. My dad jokes that I was kicking a ball before I could walk. I’m just happy I have the chance to play every day.”
“We should celebrate what he (Ja’Quan) was able to accomplish in the classroom and on the field,” Central Valley varsity football head coach Jason McCloskey said. “He’s a special talent. He’s a total team player. He’s not a ‘me’ guy.”
“I couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” Gardner said. “It’s definitely a dream come true. Now, I can focus on finishing my senior year.”
Ramos committed to Division-I San Diego State in February of 2013. Ozzie received a scholarship for his academic and athletic success.
The Aztecs compiled a 6-11-2 overall record and placed fifth in the Pac-12 standings behind Washington, UCLA, Cal and Stanford this past season. San Diego State finished ahead of Oregon State.
“I want to play against the top teams and players,” said Ramos, who took his official visit to his future school in September. “San Diego is going to give me that challenge. They can help me get to the next level. I want to play professionally overseas.”
Ozzie joined Central Valley’s varsity boys soccer team as a sophomore and developed into one of the program’s greatest players.
The standout midfielder tied for first in California in assists (29) and ranked fifth in goals (31) during his final season with the Hawks. He also claimed the Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player award for the second year in a row.
The Hawks posted a program-best 26-2-0 overall record, captured their sixth straight conference title and qualified for the postseason for the seventh consecutive year.
Central Valley also accomplished another first by compiling a perfect 12-0-0 record in Western Athletic Conference play.
The top-seeded Hawks lost 3-2 to No. 3 Christian Brothers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III championship game. The Falcons snapped Central Valley’s team-record 20-game winning streak.
“I’m satisfied,” Ramos said. “We didn’t win the section title but accomplished a lot of great things. We broke individual and team records.”
Gardner earned a full-ride scholarship to Division-II Humboldt State.
“Humboldt told us all along that he was their No. 1 overall recruit and they were absolutely thrilled when they heard the news that he signed,” Central Valley Athletic Director Greg Magni said. “I can’t remember a player being as good and humble as him. He doesn’t care about attention. He just wants to perform and have fun doing it. He’s an excellent athlete and really exemplifies character and integrity.”
McCloskey accompanied Gardner last month when he visited Humboldt. The round-trip drive lasted 13 hours.
“They treated him like a top prospect,” McCloskey said. “He was their top overall recruit. They saw how special he was. They want to build their program around him. He’ll have a great career there.”
Added Gardner: “I’m playing the game I love.”
Ja’Quan broke the Stanislaus District's career and single-season rushing yard records while leading the Hawks to their first-ever playoff berth and winning record (6-5) this past season.
The three-year standout racked up 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2013. Gardner ranks first on the District's career rushing yards list (6,014). He tallied a program-best 67 TDs in 31 games.
Ja'Quan ran for 378 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries during 15th-seeded Central Valley's 69-55 loss to No. 2 Manteca in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs. He also tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Christian Romo.
The Buffaloes (13-2) captured section and Valley Oak League titles.
Gardner rushed for 330 yards and three TDs in a 43-34 loss to Central Catholic in Western Athletic Conference play.
The Raiders (15-1) won State, NorCal and Section championships.
Gardner won the USA Today/Asics Ultimate Athlete of the Year competition in December. He was presented the national award in front of a large crowd prior to the start of the Central Valley-Ceres High varsity boys basketball crosstown game on Jan 24. One of eight finalists, Ja’Quan finished in first place with 207,062 votes.
Ja’Quan was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports medium schools’ first-team offense on Jan. 27.
He was also named to the MaxPreps 2013 All-Northern California and All-Sac-Joaquin Section first teams.
Gardner was voted Western Athletic Conference MVP as well.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches,” he said. “I want to thank everyone.”