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Whittier Christian's Commans rewriting the record books
Quinn Commans had four days to prepare for his first varsity start.
Down to his third-string quarterback by the final week of the 2014 season, Whittier Christian High coach Sergio Gradilla called upon his 6-foot-2, string bean of a freshman to start opposite a Maranatha High football team on a nine-game win streak.
Good luck, kid.
“I was as ready as I could be,” said Commans, of Placentia, who threw for 262 yards and four touchdowns in a 69-32 loss that night. “The game moved so fast. But I loved it because everyone around me was better. Little nervous before, even the first play, but after that, it felt like a JV game.”
Since debuting on varsity, Commans has set nearly every school passing record.
“I told my son, Ryan, a former quarterback here, that the only one he has a chance of keeping is the passing completion percentage record,” Rolland Esslinger, the school’s athletic director, said.
Numbers aside, Whittier Christian coaches say Commans, a junior, has yet to scratch the surface of his potential.
If so, school records won’t be the only things falling at his cleats.
“There’s nothing he can’t do,” said Brett Esslinger, Whittier Christian’s offensive coordinator and another son of Rolland Esslinger.
“If he continues, which I know he will, to work hard, continues to study the game and watch film, who knows, maybe 5,000 (passing yards in a season) is in his future,” Gradilla said.
Commans grew up a competitive kid, so much so he would swap cards when others weren't looking during family card games.
The boy just hated to lose.
He chose football over soccer, playing tight end his first year in Pop Warner. Taller than his peers, Commans became a quarterback and rode out the emotional roller coaster many young passers hop off early.
Coaches explained the value of a short memory. “After you throw an incompletion,” Commans was told, “move on.”
In junior high, Commans played with future Whittier Christian teammates Cade McGee, Nico Albertini and Justin Osborn. The crew spent hours learning each others tendencies – intel that would prove invaluable just a few years later.
Commans quarterbacked the Heralds’ junior varsity team before debuting against Maranatha.
The ensuing spring and summer, he competed for, and won, the starting varsity job.
“I’d always taken football seriously,” Commans said, “but going into my sophomore year, I lifted a lot more because I knew I needed to get bigger. I took every rep in practice seriously. I play a lot better when I need to win something.”
In 2015, Whittier Christian finished 3-7 and winless in the Olympic League.
Still, Commans turned heads with 2,746 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. His 558 passing yards in a narrow November loss to Heritage Christian High set the school’s single-game record. Perhaps most impressively, Commans, in his first full season reading varsity defenses, completed 63.5 percent of his passes.
It was what Commans showed this past summer “when we thought he could be really, really special,” Gradilla said. “Just his accuracy; he knows where to put the ball, who we want to get it to. Because he’s 6-foot-4 and really athletic, he’s able to continue plays where you think you have him but he scrambles and he gets the ball down the field.
“It’s pretty fun to watch.”
To prepare for his junior season, Commans added bulk to his lithe frame.
Speed training drills littered his off-season workouts and burnished his footwork. He also watched plenty of film, because no matter how many yards he threw for in 2015, he also threw seven interceptions.
On Aug. 26, Commans threw for 468 passing yards and five touchdowns in Whittier Christian’s season-opening win over Bishop Union High. Less than one month later, he etched him name in Orange County and CIF-Southern Section lore.
Against Bell High in September, Commans set an Orange County record with nine passing touchdowns. He had an opportunity to set the Southern Section mark with a 10th, but instead ran for a short score.
Whittier Christian won that night, 68-55. OCVarsity later named him Offensive Player of the Week.
“Their defensive backs, they played close to the sideline to take away the out routes, which was crazy,” Commans said, deciphering Bell’s defense. “That left our wide receivers open down the field, and we just had better receivers than their defensive backs.
“(Nine touchdowns) felt like a lot, but I didn’t know how many I had until everyone told me.”
Commans, who’s taller than both of his parents, is agile for his size.
At 6-foot-4, he can see passing lanes down the field others can’t. He’s big enough to shed tacklers in the pocket and shifty enough to evade them altogether. He’s savvier than he was last season, and that football IQ reveals itself subtly.
Too often last year Commans ate sacks because he held onto the ball too long. This year, if McGee, Albertini and Osborn aren’t open in one Mississippi, two Mississippi, then he’ll throw the ball out of bounds and live to fight another day.
Whittier Christian’s offense averages 47 points per game, and with 220 completions, 3,434 passing yards and 40 touchdowns, no county quarterback is having a better season statistically than Commans.
With 4,219 yards, former El Toro High quarterback Conner Manning holds the county’s single-season passing yardage record. Nick Brown, formerly of Rancho Alamitos High, owns the passing touchdowns mark, with 52.
Next year, Commans, the quarterback off Beach Boulevard most have never heard of, is coming for them both.
“I haven’t found anything that’s stumped him yet,” Esslinger, the offensive coordinator, said. “He very rarely makes a bad throw. If he does, it’s probably too high or it’s sailing out of bounds. But it’s not in danger of being picked.
“I keep forgetting he’s only a junior,” Esslinger said. “It’s fun thinking of having him back for another year.”
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