Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley quarterback Zach Kline wants people to know that Northern California is the true Cradle of Quarterbacks.
And he has a point.
Aaron Rodgers, a Chico native, is in the midst of one of the finest seasons the quarterback position has ever seen. Tom Brady, from San Mateo, has three Super Bowl rings to point to.
Next year, all eyes will be pointed towards Joe Southwick and Brett Nottingham. The former East Bay Athletic League rivals, Southwick at Kline’s San Ramon Valley, and Nottingham at crosstown rival Monte Vista, are the leading candidates to take over for Kellen Moore at Boise State and Andrew Luck and Stanford, respectively. They may join another EBAL alum, Sean Mannion at Oregon State, in starting.
For now, the EBAL is home to the top two quarterbacks in the Golden State and three of the top quarterbacks in all of the West.
There is Kline, Monte Vista’s Jeff Lockie, an Oregon commit, and Bart Houston at De La Salle, headed to Wisconsin.
So Kline’s case for NorCal is pretty strong.
“NorCal is QB Central,” said Kline. “You look at all the rankings, it’s the NorCal guys at quarterback. That’s where it’s at. That’s where the quarterbacks are from. I’ll give it up to Bryce Treggs, the Southern California receivers are great, but if you want a quarterback, they are from NorCal.”
Besides the EBAL’s Big Three, there is also Jake Rodrigues at Rocklin Whitney, near Sacramento.
“Between Jeff, Bart, Jake and myself, the quarterbacks in NorCal are just lights out,” said Kline.
Kline, who was named the California Gatorade Player of the Year, is headed to California, committing to the Golden Bears at the start of his junior year. On Saturday night, he’ll matchup one more time against his former youth baseball teammate Lockie, in a game that means everything to both quarterbacks and even more to the city of Danville. The winner of the CIF-NCS semifinal playoff game is set to play big bad De La Salle, the two-time defending CIF State Open Division Champions and winners of 19 straight CIF-NCS titles.
But first things first.
Kline and Lockie played travel baseball together as junior highers. They work out at the same gym. They have the same quarterback coach. They’re both headed to play in the Pac-12.
“We lift at the same place, and go back a long time as friends,” said Kline. “It’s not a rivalry with me and Jeff. People try to make it out to be. We’re both buds, we’re always joking around with each other.”
But the stakes have never been bigger for the friends.
Lockie engineered a last-minute drive in the first contest, setting up Monte Vista for the winning field goal. That came just after Kline had put together a drive of his own to put San Ramon Valley in front. Lockie and Monte Vista won the regular season game, the trophy that goes with it, and more importantly, bragging rights.
This game will end the prep career of one of the two. The winner can stake their claim as the best public school in the EBAL as well as the NCS. The winner gets to play at the O. Coliseum in Oakland.
“This is definitely the goal, to win this game,” said Kline. “There is so much preparation. You have to get your mind right. I think it’s just because it’s the San Ramon Valley-Monte Vista game. It’s been played for a long time. My mom and sister went to San Ramon Valley. My aunt went to Monte Vista. It’s a huge rivalry. The rivalry itself at this stage, knowing the winner goes to the Coliseum, there are way more marbles on the table. So much is riding on this game.”
Kline said he’s looking forward to seeing his good friend on the other sidelines. It’s something he didn’t envision as a junior higher.
“We never expected this, not at all,” said Kline. “We were just playing baseball, we had no idea, not a care in the world. It was something that I didn’t even know until my freshman year. It was a fun ride when we were kids and it’s going to be fun one more time. We know what’s at stake and it’s about the NCS championship. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to nine seconds.”
Kline has embraced the big stage and welcomed the opportunity to play against another D-I quarterback.
“While you’re in it, you don’t really get a chance to step back and appreciate it,” said Kline. “It’s a lot of fun. You step back and see two guys that are going to play D-I football. The last game, it was fun to watch until they started to celebrate the win. But it wasn’t fun to be a part of.”
When the season ends for either quarterback next week, both have their Pac-12 futures to look to.
Kline’s will just be coming a lot sooner, as he’s planning to enroll in January at Cal after he plays in the UnderArmour All-America Game in Orlando. And Kline has been one of Cal’s best recruiters.
“I’m more excited than ever, it’s going to be sweet,” said Kline. “It’s going to be sweet getting these guys on board and getting excited about Cal. It’s going to be fun but there is work to be done.”
Kline has been committed to Jeff Tedford and the Bears since September of 2010 and he’s excited to be coached by Tedford.
“Definitely, I am,” said Kline. “Just the whole demeanor of the coaching staff and how they act, I just want to be a part of it and can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Kline has gotten tight with several Cal commits and Cal targets. He played 7on7 during the spring and summer with Treggs, a five-star who’s committed to the Bears. He says he is recruiting the nation’s number one safety, Shaquille Thompson, regularly. And when he was at The Opening, he was proudly wearing Cal gear to impress and implant Cal on the mind of the nation’s premier players.
“I wanted to get the best players in the nation to come to Cal,” said Kline. “I knew that Cal was obviously the place to be in California. It’s got those academics, the tradition, everything you want. The NorCal guys, they’ve grown up with Cal. Our goal is to be the best in the nation, to compete with the Alabama’s and LSU’s. That’s our goal. It’s starting in baby steps and is something I’m excited to see. Hopefully we can get some out of state guys but also making those NorCal guys know Cal is where you need to be. It’s a sense of pride. You were born here, you have got to represent it.”
If San Ramon Valley wins, Kline will get to face De La Salle one more time, and get to face his future Cal teammate Michael Barton, the anchor of De La Salle’s defense.
“Mike’s a stud,” said Kline. “When they say linebackers have a screw loose, it’s true. Off the field, he’s the man. On the field, I’m literally afraid of him. He brings it every play. I’m glad he’s going to be on my team. When we played, there were no man pats, it was get ready. I’ll just be glad when he’s not against me anymore.”
But before he can put himself in position to play against Barton, and De La Salle, one more time, he’s got to avenge the regular season loss to Monte Vista.
“This is what Danville football is all about,” said Kline. “The big stage, San Ramon Valley-Monte Vista playing for a chance to win it. There is something special about it.”