It’s one of those glorious afternoons in Newport Beach. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the temperature is in the low 70s and everyone is wearing shorts, T-shirts and tank tops on the Corona del Mar football field.
Ethan Garbers, a 16-year-old junior quarterback, fires a perfect spiral to receiver John Humphreys. The ball is thrown with exceptional accuracy and touch, a sight that has become so common that no one seems to notice the precision. It’s as if every pass from Garbers is expected to be on target.
Some 400 miles away in Berkeley, another Garbers, brother Chase, is making an equally positive impression, earning the starting quarterback position at California as a redshirt freshman.
The 2018 season is turning out quite a year for the Garbers brothers. Fridays and Saturdays have become pretty fun for their parents, Angelique and Grant.
“It’s stressful for my mom,” Ethan said. “She doesn’t like watching us getting hit. My dad loves it. He’s always our biggest critic and No. 1 fan. They’re just excited for both of us.”
Chase was a three-year standout at Corona del Mar, setting high expectations for Ethan, who wasn’t even a quarterback on his youth football team because they needed him to play linebacker.
“What he’s done is phenomenal,’’ coach Dan O’Shea said of Ethan. “As a freshman, he split time at quarterback. He never blinked, whined, complained or transferred. As a sophomore, he had physical abilities but needed time to develop mentally to run the team.
“We had no idea he’d reach this point so quickly. His maturation as a quarterback and his leadership and physical ability have far exceeded our expectations. We thought by the end of the season he’d do so but all the credit goes to Ethan and his work ethic.”
With assistance from quarterback coach Kevin Hettig, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Ethan has led the Sea Kings to a 5-1 start, passing for 1,558 yards and 19 touchdowns. He completed 30 of 39 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-20 win over San Clemente.
"Following the legacy of my brother was like a big push for me to become a better football player and better man,” Ethan said.
The Garbers have always trusted the process, embracing competition and placing bets on their own abilities.
“We always take great pleasure in kids who grew up in the neighborhood, were part of our youth camps and continue to have success as high school athletes,” O’Shea said.
Their father was a high school quarterback in Georgia before playing golf at the University of Georgia. The boys used to throw passes to each other in their front yard but the biggest competition came in wrestling.
“We’d wrestle a lot to see who’s dominant,” Ethan said.
And did Ethan ever win?
“Ah, no,” he said. “I still don’t win. He’s too strong.”
From afar, Chase keeps track of little brother.