Column: Calabasas tops Rancho Cucamonga in battle of senior quarterbacks

Calabasas quarterback Jaden Casey (left) congratulates Rancho Cucamonga quarterback CJ Stroud after the Coyotes' 45-26 victory. Both senior quarterbacks have stayed at the same high school for four years.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

On a warm, clear night in Rancho Cucamonga, the fans who attended the Cougars’ game against Calabasas on Thursday night should have offered a long standing ovation to each team’s senior quarterback. It was the rarest of the rare — CJ Stroud of Rancho Cucamonga and Jaden Casey of Calabasas stayed at their same neighborhood public school for four years to earn college scholarships.

Take that, private school recruiters.

Casey is committed to Fresno State. Stroud won the Elite 11 quarterback competition over the summer and is being pursued by Oregon, among others. It’s testament to their patience and persistence that they stayed loyal and proved they belong among Southern California’s top passers.

The two engaged in an entertaining matchup. Casey completed 21 of 42 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns in the Coyotes’ 45-26 victory. He also ran for a TD. Stroud completed 26 of 36 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a TD. Each quarterback was intercepted twice, a reminder that weekly improvement is still required.


Casey has a few more weapons at his disposal, starting with 6-foot-6 receiver Johnny Wilson, an Oregon commit who had a 56-yard reception on the opening series and finished with seven catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He and Casey have been playing together since sixth grade.

“Sometimes I don’t even have to signal,” he said about throwing the ball up and hoping Wilson comes down with it.

There’s also Washington State-bound Jyden King, who’s a pretty dazzling running back in the open field. And sophomore running back Jaylen Thompson showed he can run, too, breaking off an 86-yard touchdown run.

Casey and Stroud each made it clear their commitment was toward their communities. Stroud said, “I feel it’s common nowadays to transfer. It’s showing my loyalty for my guys. It created a summer from where I built from the ground up.”

Casey said there were plenty of rumors about switching schools when his former coach, Casey Clausen, resigned and left for Mission Hills Alemany, but he said, “I didn’t want to burn bridges.”

The Coyotes (2-0) could be ready to battle all the schools not named Santa Ana Mater Dei and Corona Centennial this season. They’ve improved their line play and have a very good kicker in junior Jarrett North, who was booming kickoffs into the end zone and made every PAT.


Calabasas second-year coach Chris Claiborne, a former USC linebacker and eight-year NFL player, is proving to be quite a role model for his players. He left early for the NFL after his junior year and never finished college. He has spent the last two years completing courses and is taking his final three classes at USC to earn a sociology degree in December.

“They don’t have no excuses,” he said of his players. “I tell them, ‘I have homework, too.’”

At 41, he and his USC professor are the oldest in the classroom. Asked why it was important for him to return to school in the middle of being a high school football coach, Claiborne said, “I don’t like having ceilings put on you. You have that invisible ceiling until you have that piece of paper.”