“One and done” doesn’t quite have the same connotation in the case of Rancho Cucamonga High School football as it does college basketball. But the Cougars are incorporating a senior transfer quarterback for the second straight season courtesy of Gage Pucci’s transfer from Damien.
Adam Friederichsen, a transfer from Carlsbad La Costa Canyon prior to last season, completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,849 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions before walking on at Arizona following his lone season at Rancho Cucamonga. Pucci’s numbers in two seasons as a starter at Damien don’t measure up, but the 5-foot-11, 195-pound rising senior will be surrounded by much more talent at Rancho Cucamonga, one of the best two or three programs in the Inland Valley.
As a junior at Damien, Pucci completed 47 percent of his passes for 1,498 yards with 15 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
“He’s learning the offense, picking it up pretty well,” Rancho Cucamonga coach Nick Baiz said. “He’s a leader. He’s a tough kid. I think our biggest issue will be if we can put together an offensive line that will keep him upright.”
The Cougars have made three consecutive trips to the semifinals in one of the two toughest playoff divisions in Southern California but have plenty of players to replace, including all five offensive linemen from last season. Pucci won’t be asked to carry the team, seeing as Rancho Cucamonga returns the two running backs who combined for 1,635 yards as sophomores last season.
Baiz prefers a running team, but Friederichsen had more than 20 attempts in seven of his 12 games last season. Pucci, conversely, had just four games with more than 20 pass attempts. Pucci is more mobile than Friederichsen, something Baiz noted he is hoping to utilize.