By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
It has been circled on the calendar since last year’s stalemate and has continued to gain momentum since Fox Sports announced it will show it on live television. Rancho Cucamonga (3-0), defending CIF-Southern Section Central Division champion, will visit defending Southeast Division champion Charter Oak (3-0) on Friday in one of the most anticipated nonleague games in years. Both teams finished undefeated and 13-0-1 last season. Their only blemish was a 14-14 tie against each other at Los Osos High.
Both teams are No. 1 in their respective divisions and are on 17-game unbeaten streaks.
What more could you ask?
“You want the definition of a rubber match, this is it,” Chargers coach Lou Farrar said. “This is the type of game that sets the stage for your big league and playoff games down the line.”
It also could set the stage for a state bowl game at the end of the season, should the winner continue on.
And just like any big game, there are big decisions to make, none bigger than who finally will be named the Chargers’ permanent quarterback.
They could make that decision this week or could continue to alternate quarterbacks, but whatever the Chargers decide, don’t expect Farrar to show his hand just yet.
And why should he?
Sophomore Travis Santiago started and was 7 for 7 in Friday’s 48-0 romp over Diamond Bar. Santiago is sharing the load with junior Josiah Thropay, who has battled Santiago since the spring.
Santiago has completed 14 of 24 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Thropay has completed 15 of 25 for 128 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
“It’s harder to scout us, teams are focused on two quarterbacks, not just one,” Santiago said.
If there was any animosity between the two, it doesn’t show.
“It’s been good for both of us. We get to learn from each other,” Thropay said. “No problem at all.”
The quarterbacks started the season alternating possessions and recently have alternated quarters.
“(Offensive coordinator and son) Dominic (Farrar) and I have been talking about that, and everyone is criticizing us because we haven’t named a starter,” Farrar said. “If I were a basketball coach and my number two shooting guard was in trouble, I would want someone coming off the bench to carry the load.
“If Santiago is pitching and struggling after five innings, you bring in a reliever, don’t you? That’s where we’re at right now.”
Santiago likely will start again on Friday.
“We will start one and see if they can stop him,” Farrar said bluntly. “It’s going to be a punch-counterpunch sort of thing. At the end of the day you let the flow of the game dictate the terms.”
The Chargers just graduated one of their best quarterbacks in history, Chris Allen, the perfect combination of talent and leadership.
Allen had a 33-3-2 record as a starter, led the Chargers to two divisional finals and a championship and was named Tribune Player of the Year.
Filling those shoes has not been easy for Dominic Farrar, who feels Friday’s spotlight is the ultimate opportunity for his quarterbacks to perform under the pressure of a big game.
“In this day and age everyone talks about the `it’ factor,” Dominic Farrar said. “I’m looking forward to this challenge to test their confidence, and what I mean by that is their inner confidence. That won’t be revealed until they go through some adversity and are asked to persevere.”
Both quarterbacks bring a different dynamic. Santiago is a 5-foot-10 dual threat who can run and pass, and the 6-foot-4 Thropay has a strong arm.
“One kid (Santiago) is a gunslinger, has ice water in his veins and is so young, he doesn’t know he’s supposed to be nervous. He’s like a Mark Sanchez,” Lou Farrar said. “Our other guy (Thropay) has the perfect size, can look over everyone and throw it a mile.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s a headache for the other team because you have two completely different quarterbacks you have to prepare for. The more I think about it, what’s wrong with that?”
At some point Dominic Farrar would like to name a permanent starter, but not before he gets the answers he’s been searching for.
“We set goals from day one, and they both know and understand those goals, which is to take care of the football, take what the defense gives you and ultimately manage the game,” Dominic Farrar said. “Josiah is the prototype that everyone is looking for, but in this day and age with the evolution of offenses and some of the newer philosophies, Travis seems to be more of a dual threat.
“But what I have been concentrating on is their character, leadership and functional intelligence. Ultimately those are the intangibles that win out.”
Those intangibles defined Allen, and it’s why Lou and Dominic Farrar aren’t in a hurry to name the successor.
“Allen epitomized the identity of a quarterback on and off the field and set a higher standard and expectation for those that follow,” Dominic Farrar said. “I’m not thinking short term, I’m thinking long term. I tend to be very demanding and a perfectionist at that position. There still is something to be said about a learning process and translating a football I.Q. into a performance on the field.
“These two have recognized that, respect each other and have competed with a labor of passion. Where that leads has yet to be determined.”
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