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Don't doubt CdM's Chase Garbers
The daunting obstacle rose with the urgency and magnitude of a defining moment.
In a fitting way, the 18-point deficit Chase Garbers faced in the third quarter in the CIF-SS Division 4 semifinals was tailor-made for a senior quarterback with a history of responding positively to challenges.
“It’s freaky,” Corona del Mar offensive coordinator Kevin Hettig said. “When he’s doubted or he feels like something is taken away, all he does is break through to the next level and get better and better.”
Garbers played his best in the second half against No. 2 seed Lompoc last week, propelling the Sea Kings (12-1) into Friday’s final against top-seeded Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (12-0) at Granada Hills High.
The Cal commit passed for nearly all of his 329 yards in the second half, including a 19-yard touchdown to freshman John Humphreys with 45 seconds left, to rally Corona del Mar past Lompoc, 35-34, at Estancia.
The Sea Kings overcame a 28-10 deficit in the third quarter. Garbers, meanwhile, washed away his first-half struggles that sent him to intermission with only 28 yards passing and no touchdown passes.
“He didn’t light it up in the first half and all of sudden, he turns it around,” Hettig said. “He plays better with a chip on his shoulder.”
If not for JT Daniels of Mater Dei, Garbers might be playing with the label “Best in Orange County” heading into this weekend’s CIF-SS championship games.
San Clemente’s Jack Sears, a USC commit who Garbers shared a handshake with at the Southern Section press luncheon on Monday, and Villa Park’s Nick Sipe, a Purdue commit, also are part of the conversation.
Despite playing in only the first half of at least seven games, Garbers has passed for 3,699 yards and 46 touchdowns. He has only been intercepted five times.
Garbers’ 90 career touchdowns are eight behind Daniels’ county-record 98 and match the previous O.C. record shared by Jason Whieldon of Orange Lutheran and Jamie McGee of Sage Hill.
Garbers also rushed for 504 yards and eight touchdowns this season and teamed well with receivers Tae Le (73 receptions for 1,241 yards and 22 TDs), Reece Perez and Billy Shaw (out with a leg injury).
“He’s definitely among the top prospects in the region,” said Greg Biggins, national recruiting analysis for Fox Sports and Scout.com. “Chase has made a very big jump in his game in the last year, and a lot of it comes from confidence after a great spring and summer. The game has really slowed down for him.”
Garbers reached his lofty status from humble beginnings. During his sixth- through eighth-grade years, he didn’t play quarterback on his Junior All-American football team with the Newport-Mesa Seahawks.
Mission Viejo’s Matt McDonald, son of former USC and NFL quarterback Paul McDonald, won the quarterback job those years, relegating Garbers to tight end and linebacker.
While a member of a youth program known for producing standout quarterbacks, such as Matt Barkley and Chase Forrest, Garbers didn’t pout.
“At that time, it didn’t really matter. I just wanted to play,” Garbers said. “I was quarterback when I was little, and then Matt came in and kind of won the job.”
Garbers never gave up his dream of playing quarterback.
During the seventh grade, he began training with private quarterbacks coach Nick Stremick, a former Mater Dei and Oregon State passer.
Garbers also continued to work with speed and strength coach Karif Byrd, a running backs coach at Corona del Mar whom he has trained with since the fourth grade.
Competition followed Garbers to high school. As a sophomore, he dueled with Peter Bush, one grade older, and became the starter in the second half of the season.
“He never shied from the competition,” CdM coach Dan O’Shea said of Garber (6-3, 215). “Our entire staff thought Peter Bush was going to be our starter as a junior. Chase just took the job away from him.”
Garbers’ brother, Ethan, a freshman at Corona del Mar, also plays quarterback. O’Shea said Ethan experienced similar challenges as Chase in youth football.
“It’s made both of those kids, especially Chase, just hungrier and wanting to fight,” O’Shea said. “He’s got a heart of a lion.”
The larger the obstacle, the louder Garbers roars.
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