It was near the end of last winter when Pasadena High School junior quarterback Brandon Cox got a novel – yet simple – idea from his father, Brian.
Cox’s father was a star quarterback at Fairfax High before playing at New Mexico State and later at Hampton University.
“He told me about how him and his receivers would go on Sundays and just clean up on timing,” Cox said.
So off went Cox, still a sophomore at the time, gathering his receivers and getting them to meet him at Pasadena High or nearby Victory Park to work on routes and timing, among other things.
“I rallied my guys and worked on fundamentals and worked out technique,” Cox said. “We wanted to get better as a unit.”
Over the past two games, Cox has almost single-handedly taken over with an impressive offensive showing that arguably gives Pasadena (2-3, 1-1) a Pacific League MVP candidate. He’s completed 36 of 54 passes for 634 yards and six touchdowns while doing his best impression of Michael Vick with 204 yards rushing and six touchdowns in league against Burroughs and Glendale.
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Last week alone, Cox threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-31 passing, rushed for 91 yards and three touchdowns – including the go-ahead score with 17 seconds left – and recorded the game-sealing interception in the end zone to give the Bulldogs a 47-46 victory over Glendale.
“He’s on fire right now,” Pasadena coach Randy Horton said.
That’s an understatement, but Horton saw it coming.
“The kids got together on weekends and worked together,” he said.
They were all there: Marcus Green, CJ Collins, Riian Simpson, Cleo Bates, Armon Easley and Kendall Phillips. The hard work didn’t go unnoticed, which is why first-year offensive coordinator Mike McKay has a heavy foot on the gas pedal, playing aggressive with the spread offense.
Cox, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound standout with a 3.7 GPA, has made giant strides since starting as a sophomore last season in his first year at Pasadena after transferring from Temple City.
“Last year I was learning the moves and the position,” Cox said. “I was thrown into the fire and had to find my way out. This year, I know what I’m doing and I know how to run the offense. I just have to execute.”
Cox’s bulkier frame – he can powerclean 230 pounds – coupled with his speed would lead most to believe he’s a run-first quarterback. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I like to find my guys,” Cox said. “Running is second option. Last year, our offensive line wasn’t so strong so when things broke down I was thinking run first. Now they’re more experienced so I like to sit in the pocket and look for my guys executing their routes.”
The offense is headed in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement, particularly on defense. Pasadena gave up 49 points to Burroughs in the season opener and 46 to Glendale.
“It’s the little things,” Horton said. “Not making plays when we’re supposed to. We’re there, but we’re not making those plays.”
Pasadena hosts Crescenta Valley (4-1, 2-0) on Friday night. A victory could turn the Bulldogs into serious contenders. But for at least one week, Pasadena was the lone area Pacific League team to win, while Arcadia (3-2) and Muir (2-3, 0-2) suffered losses.
“Right now we’re still in the hunt,” Horton said. “As long as we play well and don’t worry about anyone else, we’ll be fine.”