It’s hard to believe how much talent Bellflower St. John Bosco had at quarterback during the 2016 season.
There was the starter, junior Re-Al Mitchell, who went on to commit to Iowa State. There was backup Joey Yellen, a 6-foot-3 sophomore with a strong arm. There was another backup, junior Julian Boyd, who’d commit to Nevada for baseball. And there was a freshman, DJ Uiagalelei, who picked up scholarship offers from USC, UCLA and Alabama.
It came as no surprise that Yellen, wanting to play his junior season, decided to transfer. He found Mission Viejo, the school that took another former backup in 2016, Matt McDonald, and turned him into a scholarship quarterback for Boston College. McDonald came from Santa Ana Mater Dei, where J.T. Daniels wasn’t about to lose his starting job.
Now Yellen is following the same script as McDonald. He has helped lead Mission Viejo to a 3-0 start entering a Friday showdown game against Long Beach Poly at Veterans Stadium.
“Great kid,” is how Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson describes Yellen, who only seems to play for coaches named Johnson. Last season, the offensive coordinator at St. John Bosco was Chad Johnson (no relation). This season the offensive coordinator at Mission Viejo is Rob Johnson.
“Johnsons coach the best,” Yellen said. “I got really lucky playing for the best coaches in the state.”
Yellen was traveling more than an hour from his home in Coto de Caza for two years to Bellflower. Now he’s not too far from Mission Viejo after moving to Dove Canyon.
“It’s a really loaded quarterback class,” he said of the class of 2019. “Junior year is imperative. I really want to play.”
When he showed up at Mission Viejo, there was another transfer quarterback with the same ideas as Yellen. Sophomore Brendan Costello went from Santa Margarita to Mission Viejo. Yellen beat him out and Costello transferred to San Clemente, where he’s now the starter as a junior. He has guided San Clemente to a 3-0 start. They’ll be facing off on Nov. 3 at Mission Viejo. This is the life of a high school quarterback — you seek out opportunities.
Poly’s starting quarterback, Matt Corral, was a standout at Westlake Village Oaks Christian last season. Then there was a disagreement with the school and he ended up moving to Poly, which also happened to attract Jalen Hall, a standout receiver from L.A. Hawkins. Opportunity knocks. All it takes are parents willing to move.
Yellen has passed for nine touchdowns with one interception through three games. He has made a smooth transition, though it’s been an eye-opener. He had been going to private schools since kindergarten along with attending an all-boys high school. “It’s free and there’s girls,” he said.
He said he has “no regrets” about attending St. John Bosco, a team he might have to face during the Division 1 playoffs. Of course, he still has his green jersey, which is supposed to alert the defensive linemen not to hit the quarterback during practice.
“Maybe I’ll pull that out of the closet,” he said.
Although his buddies at St. John Bosco would probably ignore it, Mission Viejo has found its quarterback for the next two seasons in Yellen.