Column: Here’s why Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar and DJ Uiagalalei of St. John Bosco are throwbacks

Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar showed patience during his four years playing quarterback and emerged his senior year as one of the best in Southern California. He's headed to Washington.
(Don Leach/Daily Pilot)

It was inspiring to watch quarterbacks Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar and DJ Uiagalalei of Bellflower St. John Bosco end their high school careers by playing for state bowl championships.

Each spent four years at one high school, earned starting positions after being backups and went against the current trend of abandoning ship when the going got tough. That’s called being an old-school quarterback.

“He’s a poster child and the antithesis of high school quarterbacks these days,” St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said of Uiagalelei.


Uigalalei arrived when Re-al Mitchell was going to be a junior. Who could have thought he’d ever beat out the fastest quarterback in the Southland who would lead St. John Bosco to a Division 1 title in 2016?

“He wanted to be at a place that was going to develop him in more ways than just on the football field,” Negro said. “He made a commitment to the school and community and trusted in his ability. We speak the truth when we say the best man is going to play and the best man is going to win the job. Midway through his sophomore year, he was able to get enough playing time and then solidified himself as the full-time starter.”

Uiagalelei ended up passing for more than 10,000 yards in his career, earned a scholarship to Clemson and finally picked up a Division 1 title by rallying the Braves to a 39-34 win over Santa Ana Mater Dei two weeks ago.

Garbers was facing an equally intriguing challenge. He was the younger brother of Corona del Mar standout Chase Garbers, but the coaches weren’t going to make him a starter just because of his last name. He was third-string on varsity as a sophomore waiting for his body and arm to mature.

“He could have been starting at many Orange County schools,” Corona del Mar coach Dan O’Shea recalled.

Garbers kept working hard while waiting for his chance. The rest is history. On Saturday at Cerritos College, he set a Southern Section record for most touchdown passes in a season when he threw No. 68 against San Mateo Serra. He finished with 71 this season after Corona del Mar defeated San Mateo Serra 35-27 in the CIF state championship Division 1-A bowl game. He’s headed to the University of Washington. He got to play and win with his best friends since middle school.


“It’s amazing,” Garbers said. “It’s been the best four years of my life. It’s unreal.”

Said O’Shea: “He was patient and trusted situation. He saw what was ahead and was not living in the moment.”

Their success won’t stop parents from moving their sons after being declared backups. But make no mistake about it, Garbers and Uiagalelei should be saluted for believing in themselves and not bailing when things got tough.

After his win on Saturday night, Garbers went over and offered a handshake to Uiagalelei as he was warming up to face Concord De La Salle in Open Division final.

“Those guys are few and far between these days and you have to give them lot of credit,” Negro said. “There’s something to be said about the kid who goes through the process. He’s patient and ultimately where you have to give a lot of credit to is the parents. Because many times these kids if they are guided correctly by the parents they’re not going to leave and not jump ship for immediate satisfaction.”