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WAC honors for CV, CHS
Ja'Quan Gardner clutched the Ceres Classic championship trophy while being serenaded with chants of "MVP!"

The sophomore running back rumbled for 307 yards and a program-record seven touchdowns during the Central Valley High School varsity football team's 55-21 Western Athletic Conference crosstown showdown finale victory over Ceres High on Nov. 4.

Gardner was recently named WAC Offensive Most Valuable Player in a vote by the league's coaches.

Ja'Quan won the Stanislaus District's regular-season rushing title.

"It's an honor to have my teammates and coaches believe in me like they do," he said. "It makes me feel good."

Gardner eclipsed former Hawk Tyree Jones' single-season records for yards (1,985) and TDs (25).

"I didn't think I'd play this big of a role," said Ja'Quan, who also started at defensive back, and returned kickoffs and punts. "I stepped up the best I could. It was pretty nerve-racking at the beginning of the season."

Gardner would have joined an elite club had he gained 15 more yards against Ceres High, which lost to Central Valley for the fifth year in a row.

"The most important thing was to win the football game," Central Valley head coach Tim Garcia said. "But we owed it to Ja'Quan to try to get him 2,000 yards. It's a milestone that doesn't get achieved that often."

Gardner provided plenty of entertainment during the course of the season.

He rushed for a combined 449 yards and four touchdowns against Los Banos, Central Catholic and Patterson, the top three teams in the Western Athletic Conference.

He racked up a program-record 397 yards and scored six times during Central Valley's 49-14 homecoming blowout of first-year Pacheco.

He tallied 359 yards and three TDs on a school-record 41 carries in the Hawks' 33-13 win over Grace Davis.

He made his varsity debut against newcomer Gregori. He ran for 156 yards and one score as Central Valley coasted to a 37-6 victory.

Gardner didn't fumble once all year. He carried the ball 218 times.

Ja'Quan was also extremely durable.

"He played every snap and didn't put the ball on the ground once," Garcia said. "That's amazing. He's just a special kid. In my opinion, he's better than (2008 Central Catholic grad and multiple all-state standout) Louis Bland. Ja'Quan ranks up there with the best to come out of this area. He's a complete running back. He would make any team better."

Bland rushed for 1,763 yards and 30 touchdowns his senior year. He totaled 882 yards and 19 TDs as a sophomore.

Central Valley teammates Daniel Ochoa, Marcus Rodriguez, Cristian Chavez, Orlando Nevarez, Greg Tripp, Cody Melton and Hector Ornelas were also recognized last week.

Ochoa, a senior kicker/punter, was selected Special Teams Most Valuable Player.

Rodriguez, a junior defensive lineman, made the WAC first team.

Chavez (Sr., OL), Nevarez (Sr., OL), Tripp (Sr., WR), Melton (Sr., ILB) and Ornelas (Sr., DL) earned second-team, all-conference honors.

Ceres High senior offensive lineman Jesse Hidahl was named to the WAC first team.

Bulldog teammates Zach Naylor (Sr., DB), Ivan Raya (Sr., LB), James Rice (Jr., WR) and Devon Ruger (Jr., P) received second-team accolades.