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OCVarsity rankings: O.C.'s top 10 quarterbacks
With the start of the high school season quickly approaching, the Register has put together its lists of the top 10 players in the county at each position.
These lists are based on the observations of the Register’s reporters, the input of football coaches around the county and the amount of interest shown by college scouts.
Here is a look at the top quarterbacks going into the season:
1. KJ Costello, Santa Margarita, Sr.
The strong-armed passer returns after a record-setting junior season with a wealth of experience and the momentum from a successful offseason. Costello set 11 school records in 2014, including most passing yards in a game (495) and season (3,122). He shared Trinity League offensive MVP honors with Sean McGrew of St. John Bosco. In March, Costello (6-5, 215) committed to Stanford. In July, he finished third at the Elite 11. “KJ is great,” Santa Margarita coach Rick Curtis said of the three-year starter. “(It’s) his knowledge of the game (and) his leadership abilities.” While two of Costello’s standout receivers from last season graduated and another decided to focus on basketball, he gained highly recruited wideout Dylan Crawford from a transfer.
2. Devon Modster, Tesoro, Sr.
If his performance during the summer was an indication, Modster’s third season as the starter at Tesoro could be his best. And that would be a feat. Last season, he passed for 2,602 yards and was first-team All-South Coast League. The Arizona commit (6-2, 220) showed a stronger and more accurate arm over the summer at the Edison and Huntington Beach passing tournaments. “I feel like I’m getting a little bit better every year,” Modster said at Edison. Modster will still operate from a spread attack but watch to see if he makes more pre-snap reads and adjustments under the team’s new offensive coordinator, Brian Hildebrand.
3. Eric Barriere, La Habra, Sr.
The dual-threat quarterback might be the county’s most exciting player. With his unpredictable scrambles, knack for staying on his feet and ability to throw or run for a touchdown, Barriere (6-0, 185) is a highlight waiting to happen. The reigning Freeway League MVP also has the numbers to go with the action. Last season, he passed for 2,108 yards with 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He rushed for nearly 600 yards. Sacramento State has offered the undersized quarterback but look for him to open more eyes this season.
4. Patrick O’Brien, San Juan Hills, Sr.
After a solid junior campaign and a sensational offseason, O’Brien becomes a must-see attraction. Last season, he threw for 2,093 yards with 12 TDs and 11 interceptions. But in the offseason, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound passer emerged as a 7-on-7 star with B2G, an Elite 11 quarterback and a Nebraska commit. While O’Brien’s stock is on the rise, he hopes it corresponds with team success. “He’s an ambitious leader who believes in himself enough to never shy away from competition,” Ron Allen, the B2G co-founder, said of O’Brien.
5. Lj Northington, Orange Lutheran, Sr.
The left-handed, dual-threat quarterback has the resume and confidence to deliver a breakout season. He is one of two returning starting quarterbacks in the Trinity League. Experience like that should serve him well. Northington (6-2, 195) recently committed to Harvard. In July, the first-team all-league selection showed confidence while throwing accurately on the run at the Huntington Beach passing tournament. Orange Lutheran coach Chuck Petersen praised Northington’s leadership, but he has seen other progress, too. “Improved feet and quickness,” he said.
6. Jack Telenko, Los Alamitos, Sr.
Telenko (6-2, 199) backed up a strong junior season with a stellar summer. He led the Griffins to a runner-up finish at the challenging Edison passing tournament and the title at the Orange Coast College passing competition. At Edison, Telenko showed a strong and accurate arm and drew high praise from Los Alamitos coach John Barnes, who called him the best quarterback in the county. “I don’t know who is better,” Barnes said. Telenko passed for 2,062 yards and 19 TDs last season. He has made unofficial visits to Washington, Boise State, Montana and Eastern Washington.
7. Brock Johnson, Mission Viejo, Sr.
Johnson (6-2, 193) stands out as the only member on this list with a CIF-SS title from 2014. He guided the Diablos to the West Valley Division crown as a first-year starter. Johnson progressed during the season, finishing with 2,510 yards and 22 TDs. During the summer, the All-CIF pick helped the Diablos capture their passing tournament. He attended camps at Stanford, Harvard, Brown and Villanova. “(He) added about 20 pounds since last season and really has a grasp of how to play quarterback,” said his father, Bret, also an assistant coach at Mission Viejo.
8. Zach Taylor, Buena Park, Sr.
Taylor (5-11, 185) returns looking to rack up more yards after a breakout junior season. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,549 yards for 34 TDs with only eight interceptions. He also rushed for almost 1,000 yards. Taylor has new weapons this fall, but expect the same type of production. “Zach’s diversity as a quarterback is what makes him a threat,” Buena Park coach Anthony White said.
9. Grant Lowary, Edison, Sr.
Give quarterbacks a little time around Edison coach Dave White and they usually raise their level of play. Lowary (6-1, 210) flashed his potential last season by throwing for almost 1,300 yards in his last five games. After a competitive offseason, Lowary now gets a crack at a complete season and the chance to build on the chemistry he has with receiver Garrett White. Consistency against tough competition will be important.
10. Jack Sears, San Clemente, Jr.
The Tritons’ quarterback pipeline has pumped out another Pac-12 recruit. Sears (6-3, 190) has an offer from Utah – home of former San Clemente quarterback Travis Wilson – but still has to win the starting job with the Sea View League contender. Sears’ potential showed in the CIF Southwest Division final last fall as he used his running ability and strong arm in a fill-in appearance for the injured Sam Darnold. “One of the fastest players on our team with a 4.53 time in 40-yard dash and has the ability to make the big play,” Tritons coach Jaime Ortiz said.
Others to watch: Michael Bonds, Newport Harbor, Jr.; Nick Chapman, Aliso Niguel, Sr.; JT Daniels, Mater Dei, Fr.; Chase Garbers, Corona del Mar, Jr.; Jason Harmon, Canyon, Sr.; George Krantz, St. Margaret’s, Jr.; Tyler Lytle, Servite, Jr.; Cole McDonald, Sonora, Sr.; Matt McDonald, Mater Dei, Jr.; Chad Olberding, Fountain Valley, Sr.