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Coach Scores With Tough Love

For those who don’t understand why Eagle Rock’s Jeremy Camacho, an All-City Section quarterback, didn’t play in his team’s first two games, it was a matter of a coach risking defeat in order to teach important lessons about commitment, consequences and ethics.

Last spring, Camacho quit the football team after listening to people tell him baseball was the sport he should pursue full time.

Then, after missing all the spring and summer football workouts, Camacho had a change of heart. He would drive past the football field and see his former teammates practicing.

“I missed my friends and wanted to play the game,” he said.

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As fall practice began in August, he asked Coach Jerry Chou if he could rejoin the team.

After passing for 2,276 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior, Camacho thought he’d be welcomed back with open arms. Who wouldn’t want an All-City quarterback? He figured his punishment would consist of saying he was sorry and running a bunch of line drills.

Chou was hesitant to let Camacho return, fearing it would send the wrong message to players who had worked so hard in the spring and summer.

Most of the returning players didn’t want him back. They felt betrayed.

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“I depended on him,” running back V.J. Castanos said. “Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, he said, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ It hurt.”

Chou eventually decided to reinstate Camacho, but he suspended him for the first two games and wouldn’t let him start in the third.

It was a test to see not only how badly Camacho wanted to play but also whether he’d forget about his disappointment and be supportive of the new starting quarterback, Aaron Frescas.

“He’s been absolutely great,” Chou said of Camacho. “He’s handled it with a lot of grace.”

Eagle Rock won the first two games, but Camacho was miserable standing on the sideline in uniform, knowing he couldn’t play. That was just how Chou had planned it.

“He wanted to set an example to show others what I did was wrong and couldn’t be forgiven that quickly,” Camacho said. “It was very difficult. There’s nothing you can do except sit and wait your turn. It hurt so much.”

Last Friday, after Eagle Rock fell behind, 14-0, to Los Angeles Hamilton, Camacho came off the bench in the second quarter and rallied the Eagles to a 28-20 victory, completing 11 of 16 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran in a two-point conversion and scored a touchdown.

“It was awesome being on the field for the first time,” Camacho said.

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Afterward, teammates congratulated him.

“It’s good to have you back,” they said.

They also appreciated that their coach stood firm by not putting Camacho on the field immediately for the sake of winning.

“There would have been some injustice,” Castanos said.

All has been forgiven because Camacho’s hard work in practice and unselfishness in helping groom Frescas convinced teammates that he deserved a second chance.

“He proved himself,” Castanos said.

Camacho has come to understand that “there are consequences for every action.”

“It’s something I can tell my kids,” he said. “If they ever cross a conflict like this, I’ll guide them which way to go.”

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As Michael Herrick of Valencia closes in on becoming the first California quarterback to pass for 10,000 yards, respect continues to grow for his skills.

He has Valencia off to a 2-0 start despite a mostly new receiving group and a rebuilt offensive line.

After the Vikings scored 51 points against City Section champion Lake Balboa Birmingham last week, Coach Ed Croson of Birmingham said, “That kid is better than I thought, and I already thought he was great.”

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Bob Francola, in his 20th and final season as coach at Granada Hills Kennedy, is thrilled with his team’s 2-0 start, including a 36-34 upset of Palmdale.

He has a junior tight end, 6-foot-3, 220-pound Daryl Hill, who he believes will be an NCAA Division I prospect.

“This is kind of a breakout year,” Francola said. “He’s a huge blocker.”

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com


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