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Thrilling victory
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Antone Lopez, head coach of Central Valley High School's junior-varsity football team, had trouble catching his breath following Friday's thrilling 7-6 Valley Oak League season finale victory over crosstown rival Ceres High.

"I'm hyperventilating," he said.

The Hawks grinded out a 58-yard, nine-play drive to tie the score at 6-6 with 1:19 remaining in the fourth quarter. Benji Magana's point-after kick proved to be the difference.

"I was nervous," said Benji, who shed tears of relief and joy after the game. "I just didn't want to let the team down so I had to make it."

Lopez never lost confidence in Magana even though he failed to convert a pair of 30-plus-yard field goals at the end of practice on Thursday.

"We were out there late because he kept missing," Antone said. "He felt bad. The kids were on him."

Lopez knew Magana would redeem himself if given the opportunity.

"I have a lot of trust in Benji," he said. "He works so hard at kicking."

Neither team scored during the first three quarters of play.

The Bulldogs grabbed a 6-0 lead midway through the fourth period on Ivan Raya's 3-yard rushing touchdown. The 11-play drive started deep in Bulldog territory. Raya carried the ball eight times for 80 yards.

Central Valley responded four minutes later.

Linemen Orlando Navarez, Andrew Fuentes, Cristian Chavez, Wyatt Faulkner and Gabriel Alvarado provided the blocking.

Sterling Shaw's fourth straight carry resulted in a 1-yard TD.

"We had good field position on that last drive," Lopez said. "We had no penalties. It was pretty methodical."

Magana came through in the clutch.

"It took pressure off my shoulders," he said. "I had chills throughout my body."

Ceres High's potential, game-winning possession started near midfield thanks to Bulldog all-purpose player Jr. Moniz's 41-yard kickoff return.

Hawk defensive player Anthony Centeno sealed the victory when he intercepted Blake Hurst's pass at the Central Valley 38 with 25 seconds to play.

"It was a clean, hard-fought game," Lopez said. "It was a battle."

Central Valley posted a 4-6 overall record and placed fifth in the VOL standings (2-5).

Ceres High (2-8) lost all seven of its conference games.

"Our kids are resilient," Lopez said. "They've bounced back from adversity all season."

The Hawks collected their most satisfying victory last week.

"It feels good," Magana said. "It gives us bragging rights for the year."