Joe Davidson

Oak Ridge’s Matt Jenner learns from a QB father while posting ‘holy mackerel!’ numbers

Oak Ridge High quarterback Matt Jenner has led the Trojans to a 2-0 start this season. He also loves to play physical.
Oak Ridge High quarterback Matt Jenner has led the Trojans to a 2-0 start this season. He also loves to play physical. Special to The Sacramento Bee

Matt Jenner has the look of a linebacker.

He is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, sturdy and stout. He fancies a good scrap in contact drills.

At Oak Ridge High School, one such exercise is the Trojan Drill. Bodies collide like so many intersection car wrecks. Jenner craves such fun.

By the way, he’s a quarterback.

“Oh, he’ll let you know he’s ready to hit,” Oak Ridge quarterbacks coach Mark Watson said. “Matt’s a physical guy, a strong guy with that old-school look. If we need those extra two yards, he’ll get us those hard two yards by running over you.”

Said Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere, “Matt’s a tree of a dude, just a solid guy, really tough. Reminds me of John Elway, even the walk.”

Jenner is his own man, and he is the man for The Bee’s No. 2-ranked Trojans. Oak Ridge is 2-0 on the strength of Jenner’s playmaking ability, a versatile offense and a strong defense. He is one of three team captains, joining lineman Zac Welch and linebacker Sam Sanders.

“Matt’s so accurate, makes the quick reads, can stay in the pocket, take hits and make plays, and he’s really coachable,” Watson said. “I mean, he’s just really good.”

Jenner grew up playing quarterback, the son of one who guided perhaps the greatest high school team this region has known. Scott Jenner led Cordova to an 11-0 season and national No. 1 final ranking in 1975. That remains the region’s only team to finish top ranked in a national listing.

So imagine the glee of father watching son in a game that has come so far but still remains one rooted in the fundamentals of blocking, tackling and decision making.

Matt’s older brother, Brad, was a Bee All-Metro linebacker who sought out quarterbacks for Folsom’s 16-0 team in 2014. Now Scott and wife Lisa soak in the view and vibe of a quarterback looking to fool linebackers.

“Brad delivered the blows and when someone is delivering the blows, it’s easier to watch than watching a son take them at quarterback,” said Scott, the president and CEO of Addison Avenue Investment Services in Placer County. “Thank goodness we have such a great line.

“It’s a different anxiety for me because Matt’s playing a position I played. He’s so calm, his demeanor. He’s better than I was at this stage of his career. He’s a really good field general.”

Scott was quite a general himself, running the triple-option wishbone that devastated defenses. Cordova in 1975 was the best team from of a decade of Lancers dominance when the program led the nation in victories, going 102-6-1.

“We pulled out the old Cordova 1975 film recently,” Matt said with a laugh. “Converted it to DVD. Dad was pretty good. It’s fun to watch.”

Scott earned a scholarship to Idaho State, earning a starting quarterback job as a freshman in 1976. After a 1-9 season, the coaching staff was fired. Scott came home and attended American River College, where he played for his former Cordova coach, Dewey Guerra, in 1977.

He was then recruited to the University of Pittsburgh by big-haired, pre-Dallas Cowboys era Jimmy Johnson, an assistant to Jackie Sherrill. A groin injury stalled Scott in fall camp of his junior season. He was a backup to a rising-fast freshman in 1979 by the name of Dan Marino.

“I didn’t get a lot of playing time at Pitt, but it was a great experience and I got my degree there,” Scott said. “And Danny Marino was the man. You could tell right away he was going to be special.”

Scott implored his son to be as versatile as he could be in this sport. Get on the field any way you can. Jenner moved from quarterback to receiver last season when returning Bee All-Metro star Marco Baldacchino returned for his senior campaign at quarterback, allowing Oak Ridge to put its very best players on the field.

When Baldacchino was sidelined with a knee strain entering the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, Oak Ridge turned to Jenner — and he dazzled. In three playoff games, he passed for 834 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions.

“What he did, wow! Holy mackerel!” said Cavailere, the Oak Ridge coach.

This season, Jenner has completed 28 of 33 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

But for all of Jenner’s achievements — his size, his good grades and good standing — he is not on the recruiting radar. Yet.

Jenner fields one offer, from small-college powerhouse Southern Oregon. Coaches often remark about their overlooked players, “If he was only 2 inches taller, everyone would want him.” That’s Jenner. He is two inches taller but no one knows.

This is an example of how the recruiting game can twist and turn.

“It’s frustrating because Matt can really play,” Cavaliere said. “That’s the difference for quarterbacks in recruiting. If you’re not starting and doing big things at that position as a sophomore or junior, then recruiters may not notice you. He’ll prove himself. It’s a long season.”

Jenner said he doesn’t sweat the recruiting process. He is too focused on getting to 3-0, and then navigating the Trojans through the Sierra Foothill League schedule that includes five Bee-ranked teams: No. 1 Folsom, No. 3 Del Oro, No. 9 Grant, No. 11 Rocklin and No. 12 Granite Bay.

What he does embrace are lessons beyond football, especially those from his father.

“Dad and I watch game film and talk about the game and the sport,” Jenner said. “He’s been a great mentor on and off the field. He’s taught me to be a good person, a good citizen, to help people.”

Said Scott, “We stress that so much at home. You have to learn life lessons. If you treat people well, that will come back tenfold. Not only your teammates, but treat those you go to school with as well.

“Set an example. If you see a kid get bullied, make sure to step in and stop it. Be good kids first, then be good students and then good athletes.”

The goodwill includes the Jenner family hosting linemen for a once-a-week dinner spread. And every so often, the topic of eras comes up.

Father and son wonder how Cordova 1975 would fare against Oak Ridge 2018 or any team of this era. Scott at 6-2 and 195 was bigger than his offensive guards at Cordova, and loved contact. Like father, like son.

“I know we’d show them a thing or two,” Scott said with a laugh. “I wanted to keep some of my old Cordova film around. I knew the kids would want to see me play, and they got a feel for how football used to be. It’s still a great game.”

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