Jake Browning may eclipse a remarkable milestone by halftime tonight, an accomplishment more believable for a “Madden 15” video-game champion than for a high school quarterback.
The Folsom senior is four touchdown passes shy of 200 for his three-year varsity career, and he’s just warming up. Top-ranked Folsom hosts underdog Stagg of Stockton in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I opener, with Delta Kings defensive backs ready to backpedal about the time the national anthem finishes.
Browning is second on the all-time national career prep list, as recognized by the National Federation of State High School Associations, with 196 touchdown passes, despite sitting the second half in many blowout games. Though individual statistics don’t mean much to Browning, a genuine team-first leader, they do add to his growing legacy as perhaps the region’s greatest quarterback. He’s the best I’ve seen.
And that’s some list, considering Ken O’Brien (Jesuit) and Tony Eason (Delta) are 1978 local products, and both were part of the famed 1983 NFL first-round draft class. Other great QBs of note include Troy Taylor (Browning’s position coach) of Cordova in 1985, Aaron Garcia of Grant in 1987, Randy Fasani of Del Oro in 1995, Chad Elliott of Grant in 1996 and Ryan Dinwiddie of Elk Grove in 1998. All played professionally.
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Browning’s 14,492 career yards rate him first all-time on the West Coast and fourth nationally. The national touchdown passing mark of 219, held by Marty Mauk of small-school Kenton-Ohio from 2008 to 2011, might fall as Folsom has the opportunity to play as many as six games in its postseason march to a CIF State Bowl championship. The Washington-bound Browning has passed for 3,507 yards and a nation-leading 56 touchdowns in 10 games this season with just four interceptions, so he’s well on track. To put his season total in perspective, consider Fasani passed for 5,299 yards and 53 touchdowns in a three-year varsity career when he was considered the nation’s No. 1 quarterback recruit.
A Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Famer, Fasani played at Stanford and two seasons in the NFL. He is an assistant coach at Del Oro, and a fan of Browning.
“I just wish he was going to Stanford!” Fasani said, laughing. “Jake’s absolutely amazing. I love watching him and what Troy Taylor has done with him. What stands out is Jake’s composure, his great footwork, which a lot of high school quarterbacks don’t have. And he keeps his eyes downfield when he scrambles. Most don’t do that, either.”
Fasani is amazed at how advanced prep quarterbacks are today.
“You can tell the Troy Taylor-coached guys,” Fasani said. “Quarterbacks are 100 percent more prepared for this than they were in the 1980s and ’90s. Very impressive. Who’s next?”
The most athletic man on the Stagg sideline might be principal Andre Phillips, who won the 400-meter hurdles in the 1988 Olympic Games. He is hoping to return Stagg to the football prominence it had in the mid-1970s when the late Bob Mattos led the school to championships.
At Tokay High in Lodi, the top recruit for the Tigers is receiver L.J. Reed, a verbal commit to UCLA who played his first three seasons at Cosumnes Oaks. Should Tokay beat Merced in a Division I opener and Cosumnes Oaks gets past Monterey Trail, Cosumnes Oaks and Tokay would meet in the second round.
The California Interscholastic Federation released its fall All-Century team, heavy on football, including Ernie Nevers of Santa Rosa (class of 1920), Bob Waterfield of Van Nuys (1938), Bill Walsh of Hayward (1951), John Madden of Daly City (1954), Jim Plunkett of James Lick-San Jose (1968) and John Elway of Granada Hills (1978). No Sacramento-area football players made the voting list, though Kevin Willhite of Cordova (1982), Tedy Bruschi of Roseville (1991), Lance Briggs of Elk Grove (1999), Onterrio Smith of Grant (1999) and Dano Graves of Folsom (2011) seemed like viable candidates.
The only regional athlete to make the fall list was Zoe Nightengale (2011) of St. Francis volleyball. Winter and spring voting starts Dec. 1 at www.cifstate.org.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.