Sophomore quarterback Luke Fahey (3) plays for Mission Viejo High School's football team. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)
Poise under immense pressure, an ability to read sometimes-complex defenses, and a strong arm to zip footballs through tiny windows are among the many desired traits for a top-flight quarterback.
But a knack for winning at rock-paper-scissors?
Well, maybe not most places, but such a skill can come in handy at Mission Viejo High School, at least for sophomore Luke Fahey and junior Draiden Trudeau.
The Diablos have ridden Coach Chad Johnson’s unorthodox two-quarterback system to a CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship and into the California Division 1-AA semifinals. Mission Viejo, a 34–15 winner over Servite of Anaheim in last week’s section final, will host Granite Hills of El Cajon in the state playoffs at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1.
Mission Viejo High School's football team wins the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)
As for which quarterback will lead the Diablos onto the field for their initial series, Mr. Johnson will leave that up to the two signal-callers.
“We rock-paper-scissors before the game, and whoever wins starts the game,” Fahey told The Epoch Times after throwing three touchdown passes in the victory over Servite. “And then after the first drive, I’ll rotate in, or if I win, he’ll rotate in. And we’ll just keep going like that.”
Indeed, they will. Fahey and Trudeau have alternated series all season, regardless of the circumstances.
Fahey has completed 62 percent of his 217 passes for 1,878 yards and 22 touchdowns, with five interceptions. Trudeau has hit 64 percent of his 146 throws for 1,271 yards and 16 scores, with four picks.
Mr. Johnson, who is in his sixth season at Mission Viejo after a stint as offensive coordinator at perennial power St. John Bosco of Bellflower, traced his adoption of the dual-quarterback scheme to Centennial of Corona and its longtime coach.
“Matt Logan scored 65 points against us at Bosco doing it in a CIF championship game,” Mr. Johnson told The Epoch Times. “I’m like, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’”
The respective skill sets of Fahey and Trudeau, combined with their maturity, convinced Mr. Johnson to go against conventional wisdom that calls for a team to settle on one primary quarterback.
“They work really well together,” he said. “They cheer each other on. On the sidelines, they support each other. They’re just two amazing kids, man. If I chose one of them, then the other one’s going to [transfer], and rightfully so. I didn’t want to lose a great kid, so I’m like ‘You’re both deserving to play, and you’re both going to play.’”
Fahey credited Trudeau and the since-graduated Kadin Semonza for mentoring him last season. The relationship between the two remaining quarterbacks has only grown this year.
“You would kind of think it’s like hate between us or something like that because he’s not fully starting or I’m not fully starting, but we have a great bond,” Fahey said. “He’s one of my best friends on this team. We’re cool and amazing off the field. We’re both extremely excited and extremely grateful to be playing on a team like this.”
Junior quarterback Draiden Trudeau (10) plays for Mission Viejo High School's football team. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)
Much of the logic behind going with just one quarterback has to do with continuity. The theory is that constant in-game switching makes it exceedingly difficult for remaining members of the offensive unit to find the proper timing and comfort level.
“You would think so, but it’s actually not,” Diablos sophomore wide receiver Vance Spafford told The Epoch Times. “It’s very strange. They both do a really great job. The great thing is that I’ve played with Luke forever, since like the first grade. And Drai, I’ve become really close with him over the last year. I hang out with him all the time, so the chemistry has been great. They both find me when they need to.”
Thanks to the combined efforts of Fahey and Trudeau, Spafford has enjoyed a breakout campaign, with 74 receptions for 1,429 yards and 20 touchdowns. His five catches against Servite produced 145 yards and two scores, one on a picture-perfect 90-yard bomb from Fahey.
The willingness of Fahey and Trudeau to share responsibilities, and the spotlight, epitomizes Mission Viejo’s collective mindset.
“There are no selfish people here,” senior linebacker Jack Matranga told The Epoch Times. “Everyone is playing for each other. We’re just a super-tight team. We have confidence in our coaches, confidence in our team, confidence in our players, and confidence in both of our quarterbacks.”
Senior linebacker Jack Matranga (18) plays for Mission Viejo High School's football team. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)
Two victories away from claiming a state championship, the Diablos (11–3) have navigated through some difficult moments. There was a narrow, 32–28 early season loss to Long Beach Poly, and a 39–17 defeat at the hands of nationally renowned St. John’s of Washington, D.C., on a midseason trip to the nation’s capital.
Nothing stung more, however, than a 20–10 loss to rival San Clemente on Oct. 13, a result that cost Mission Viejo the South Coast League championship.
“That was a heartbreaking moment, but after that game, we all locked in and were prepared,” senior safety Travis Anderson told The Epoch Times. “We wanted to be here, and we got here. I’ve been best friends with Jack Matranga pretty much my whole life, since kindergarten. I’ve played with all these kids my whole youth-football career. It means a lot, just to keep playing with them for a couple more games.”