I wanted to put together a top 10 list of the top returning quarterbacks in the West San Gabriel Valley, but frankly there just isn’t that kind of talent this season. Gone is Matt Schilz (Bowling Green) and Chase Rettig (transferred to San Clemente), two guys that annually battled for the list’s top spots. So we’ll limit the list to the top 5 and make it a good one. Without further adieu, here is the first list for you hungry-football freaks, the top 5 returning QB’s in the West San Gabriel Valley.
1. ISAAC VALDEZ, SAN GABRIEL, SENIOR
QUICK LOOK: Valdez completed almost 64 percent of his passes. He was the Star-News’ first team All-Area quarterback after throwing for 2,754 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 5-foot-7 Valdez displayed his speed as well, rushing for nearly 700 yards and six touchdowns.
MY TAKE: Imagine the college scouts all over San Gabriel High if Valdez was 6-foot-3?!?! Heck, he’d like to be at least 5-foot-10, Valdez said to me once during the All-Area photo shoot. Nonetheless, Valdez has shown he has a rocket of an arm, each year improving on yards passing. He’s not elusive but he is quick, making him a true threat for the Matadors which already boast a talented backfield. San Gabriel finished 5-6 overall and were ousted in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, but you have to remember injuries plagued San Gabriel with the loss of Marcos Villalobos, who wasn’t the same after separating his shoulder in the Alhambra game. Things are looking up for the Matadors. Keep an eye out on their offensive line. They won’t exactly match Temple City’s studs, but they’ll be up there, meaning Valdez could have an even better season come Fall.
2. NICK BUENO, MONROVIA, JUNIOR
QUICK LOOK: Bueno completed 55 percent of his passes and threw for 1,037 yards and had 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns as well. Bueno was instrumental in leading the Wildcats to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs. Bueno also led Monrovia to a Rio Hondo League championship after an impressive 5-0 record in league.
MY TAKE: Bueno was thrown to the fire and the kid didn’t disappoint. Monrovia took some bumps and bruises in mastering the Wing-T offense and though Marquis Williams was a big part of the offense’s success, it was Bueno’s dependability that grew as the season progressed, allowing the Wing-T offense to be effectively executed. Monrovia’s one dimensional offense evolved when Bueno was given more responsibility. He’s not quick but he is patient and mastered his way into finding options even when the pocket sometimes collapsed. Look for Bueno to have more responsibility in the offense with the absence of Marquis.
3. JARRON WILLIAMS, MUIR, SENIOR
QUICK LOOK: Williams emerged as the team’s quarterback after Muir lost key players in the backfield, moving Reuben Thomas from quarterback to Mr. Everything, particularly at running back. Williams threw for 1,599 yards and 15 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He also rushed for three touchdowns. Williams led Muir to a 9-2 record and another Pacific League title.
MY TAKE: Though the Mustangs lost to Diamond Ranch in the first round of the Southeast Division playoffs, it was Williams who fueled a frantic rally in the final minutes of the game. Williams doesn’t have the speed or elusiveness that Thomas had but in Williams the Mustangs have a patient, subtle leader that can inspire teammates with his actions on the field. It took a while for Williams to get used to the pressure in the backfield but as the season progressed he became more comfortable throwing on the run. Williams could have a breakout season if in fact Muir has a stout offensive line like coach Kenny Howard claims.
4. DARRIAN CAZARIN, ALHAMBRA, SENIOR
QUICK LOOK: Cazarin threw for 2,209 yards and 24 touchdowns. The lone downside was he threw for 12 interceptions. Despite having a talented quarterback and true threats at wide receiver with Mitchell Crockom and Vailele Peko, the Moors had a sub.500 record and missed the playoffs.
MY TAKE: Cazarin no doubt is talented but he needs to implement the run in order to give Alhambra another much-needed dimension. And if the Moors have a talented Crockom playing they need to find him more than they did last season. For someone ranging 6-feet-3 one would think Crockom would get a lot more touches. Still, that wasn’t the Moors problem last season. They had no rushing game whatsoever, not until the final two games of the season when they discovered Daniel Imaa. If Cazarin can limit the turnovers and find a way to connect more often with the talented Crockom, expect the Moors to make a return to the playoffs, albeit as the league’s No. 2 representative behind San Gabriel.
5. GARRETT TUCK, ARCADIA, SENIOR
QUICK LOOK: Tuck completed 1,598 yards and threw for 15 touchdowns and had 18 interceptions. The Apaches didn’t have the best season once Todd Golper went down with an injury, meaning the Apaches were suddenly had to rely on Tuck to carry the offense.
MY TAKE: Coach Jon Dimalante said they expect big things from Tuck, and so do I. When a team like Arcadia has a player like Golper, you hand him the rock. Unfortunately for the Apaches, Golper went down along with much of the Apaches’ offense. But Tuck showed his resilience and didn’t falter despite the turnovers. Arcadia is scheduled to participate in several passing tournaments which will prove beneficial for a guy like Tuck who knows he’ll have a bigger role in the offense as the season approaches.
OTHERS: Conor Bednarski (South Pasadena); Rocky Moore (La Canada);
Coming soon: The top 5 running backs and wide receivers. But don’t wait for me, start your own list in the latest Star-Jibber thread.