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Gregori tight end takes top football scholarship at Central Valley Automotive awards

Gabe Sanchez wants to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company some day.

When that day comes – and it seems likely it will – $5,000 will be pocket change for the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Gregori High senior. But until then, that money will go a long way in helping to further his education.

Sanchez was the big winner at the second annual Central Valley Automotive Player with Drive Scholarship awards ceremony Thursday, taking home the top $5,000 top prize. Batterymate Bobby Avina took home $3,000 and Manteca quarterback Gino Campiotti went home with $2,000.

Sanchez, who sports a 4.39 grade-point average, plans on attending an Ivy League school. He’s narrowed his choices to Brown, Dartmouth and Yale.

“It is a great feeling, I'm very appreciative," Sanchez said of the scholarship award.

Sanchez played a key role in helping the Jaguars (11-1) win their first Modesto Metro Conference title and their first playoff victory. He caught 56 pass for 941 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Sanchez and Avina have known each other since they were in kindergarten.

"We first started playing Pop Warner football around ... 8, 9 years old," Sanchez said. "We had the best chemistry. If we saw something in crunch time, we just gave each other the look and ran the play."

Avina, The Bee’s Player of the Year and the MMC’s most valuable player, completed .671 percent of his passes for 3,015 yards and 36 touchdowns against just five intercptions.

Nearly a third of his completions were hauled in by Sanchez.

"It's a huge honor, I'm totally humbled by this," Avina said.

Campiotti, who has committed to play in the fall at Northern Arizona, was equally in impressive.

The Valley Oak League MVP He led the Buffaloes to a second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championship, knocking off top-seeded Oakdale in the championship game.

Manteca’s season came to an end a week later in the Northern California regional bowl against St. Francis (Mountain View). Campiotti completed .628 percent of his passes for 3,212 yards with 37 touchdowns and just six picks as the Buffs finished the year 12-3.

His highlight this season?

"Beating Oakdale in the section championship, easy," he said. "That's the best feeling I've ever had in my life."

With Sanchez being awarded the top prize, it marks the second straight year that Central Valley Automotive has written a $5,000 to a Gregori student.

Dominic Barandica won the top prize for the 2016 season, with Central Catholic’s Jared Rice earning $3,000 and Modesto Christian’s Rachel Smith claiming $2,000.

"I'm blown away by the accomplishments on the field (of these three)," said Gardner, a 1999 graduate of Central Catholic High School. "But that isn't why we're here. Grade-point average, community service and where your career is headed ... that's what is amazing about all three of you guys."