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Column: Young QBs will be turned loose in football games this weekend

St. John Bosco junior quarterback Katin Houser drops back to pass.
St. John Bosco junior quarterback Katin Houser drops back before connecting on a long pass during a first half drive against Sierra Canyon.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A perfect storm of events has helped create an unusual opportunity for young high school quarterbacks in Southern California. In simple terms, the young guns are about to be turned loose during the first full weekend of spring football.

An unprecedented spring season combined with a number of senior quarterbacks either graduating, leaving for college early or transferring out of state because of the pandemic has motivated coaches to promote untested but promising freshmen, sophomores and juniors into the starting rotation.

Add to that, the quarterback torch is being passed at Bellflower St. John Bosco and Santa Ana Mater Dei because the two best quarterbacks from 2019, DJ Uiagalelei and Bryce Young, have moved on to Clemson and Alabama, respectively.

At St. John Bosco, sophomore Pierce Clarkson and junior Katin Houser alternated every series last week in a season opener against Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, with each performing impressively. Houser had two touchdown passes and Clarkson contributed a 21-yard touchdown scramble.

At Mater Dei, freshman Elijah Brown will start in the Monarchs’ season opener on Friday against San Juan Capistrano JSerra. He’s been training against the best secondary in the Southland during practice.

The Trinity League openers this weekend will be a changing of the guard. The league’s three returning quarterbacks, senior Colt Fulton of Santa Margarita, junior Noah Fifita of Anaheim Servite and junior Logan Gonzalez of Orange Lutheran, will try to use their experience as an advantage while the young guns try to catch up.

Sophomore Jaxon Potter takes over as the starter at JSerra.

“We’re going to see some very good quarterback play,” St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said.

Around the Southland there are new faces. Six-foot-5 sophomore Javance Tupouata-Johnson starts for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Junior Tyler Voss takes over at Valencia and sophomore Kadin Semonza starts at Mission Viejo. Sophomore Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos passed for three touchdowns in his season debut last week.

Junior Dylan Gebbia, who has been injured, will finally make his debut for Bishop Alemany, which once had Miller Moss, Tupouata-Johnson, Finn Collins and other quarterbacks at the school before they left. Sophomore Jack Jacobs of La Canada St. Francis opened last week with 377 yards passing and four touchdowns against Manhattan Beach Mira Costa. Junior Josh Coleman takes over at Dorsey. Freshman Darius Curry is ready to debut for Playa del Rey St. Bernard.

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For the loyal senior quarterbacks who stuck around, the abbreviated spring season is a final chance to impress college recruiters and play with their best friends. Pay respect to the likes of Zevi Eckhaus of Culver City, Dylan Kordic of San Pedro, Hudson Jones of San Juan Hills, Dartanyon Moussiaux of Capistrano Valley, Brayden Zermeno of Los Angeles Loyola and Walker Eget of Santa Clarita West Ranch.

“We know there’s no ring, no playoffs but we want to put it out for the city,” Eckhaus said.

Eckhaus serves as a great example for young quarterbacks on how to succeed after months of pandemic adversity.

“I just realized I have a very strong passion for having a hard work ethic,” he said. “You have to really want to play. You have to wake up early and be like, ‘This is what I want.’ I have to study film. I got to go the gym. For a lot of people, this was an excuse to kind of lay back, and I learned more about myself the person and the player I am.”

Eckhaus plans to deal with any and all obstacles ahead.

“We have to take safety precautions,” he said. “I just think we have to follow the routine and it’s boring and it sucks and I get it, but this will only prolong if we continue to try to find other ways out of it.”


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