Coming off a 2-8 season in 2018, the Golden Valley Grizzlies football team has bounced back this season in a big way. Finishing their non-league season at 5-0 for the first time in school history the Grizzlies entered their first league game with a bit of a swagger.
That swagger didn’t last very long because they lost to the West Ranch Wildcats in a big way 52-13. After the first two league games, the Grizzlies sit at 1-1 in the always tough Foothill League. Entering the midpoint of their league schedule they possess a 6-1 record.
A lot of their success can be attributed to their punishing running game and a two quarterback rotation of senior Austin Garcia and sophomore Jaxson Miner. The two rotate throughout the game, and in practice are very competitive with each other to earn the starting spot. Both quarterbacks are working hard to outdo one another.
Miner entered his sophomore year at Golden Valley with the hopes of taking over the starting QB role. However Garcia has proven to be just as effective in running the offense and leading the team. Moving up levels is difficult for any athlete in any sport. That situation is no different for Miner as the game has changed for him. After playing JV in his freshman year, he now has realized the game at the varsity level is much different.
“The speed of the game is definitely faster, it’s been very intense but very fun. Being the leader in the huddle puts a lot of pressure on me. Varsity is an amazing experience and the atmosphere is very different compared to JV,” Miner said.
Even though Miner works with a private coach, the decision on who is the starter ultimately falls to GV head coach Dan Kelley.
“Jaxson is the youngest quarterback that I have ever played at the Varsity level. He has all the qualities you want in a quarterback, and at his age I believe he is way ahead of the game. With the experience he is getting this year as a sophomore, I believe the sky’s the limit with Jaxson,” Kelley said.
For Garcia, in his final season at GV, things worked out a bit differently as he sat behind two year starter Zack Chevalier. Garcia is now the mentor to Miner like Chevalier was to him during his junior year.
“Zack taught me how fast the speed on varsity works. It’s super fast and it was something I needed to adjust to,”
He always told me that no matter if something goes right or wrong it’s always going to reflect on you, and I figured that out fast! There’s so little time to do something in just one play. He taught me how to become a better leader, and how to open up to things when things go wrong. Now Garcia is using those skills to mentor the future starter Miner.
Sitting behind Zack [Chevalier] all last year made me realize that when it was my time to shine I had to pick up very quickly.”
Garcia said he appreciates all that Chevalier did to help him and he relishes taking that same role with Miner.
“It’s just part of what we do as seniors. We try to mentor the underclassmen to prepare them for what’s next,” Garcia said.
Miner knows that the advice Garcia is giving him will help him in the long run.
“Austin [Garcia] has helped by making sure I know the plays and I’m memorizing them so in the game I can execute them correctly,” Miner said.
Both quarterbacks have strengths in areas that the other doesn’t, and they use these strengths to help one another improve their game.
“Jaxson [Miner] isn’t a very cocky person at all, but he’ll get the job done and his actions speak louder than words. Jaxson is a very accurate passer, has great arm strength, and is great at scanning the field and getting the ball into tight windows,” junior wide receiver Mekhi Newton said.
Newton also loves what Garcia brings to the table.
“He’ll put anything on the line because of his love for the game and his strong work ethic, Austin is a stationary QB and is great at making long passes down the field,” Newton said.
Both realize their individual strengths and those compliment each other on the field.
“I feel like I can extend plays and turn something small into something big! I feel like I understand most teams defenses and if not I can adjust pretty fast which is a huge key in being a quarterback,” said Garcia.
Miner said he’s a double threat.
”I can run the ball when needed but also throw accurately on time to either a covered wide receiver or open, I’m also very consistent and I keep my teammates moving and on task in practice,” Miner said.
Both QB’s are rotated in by Coach Kelley, which doesn’t allow for one QB to take over an entire game.
“It’s going pretty good, I mean I just wish I could have had this opportunity last year but it is what it is!” Garcia said.
Miner also agreed the double QB situation is going well.
“I wouldn’t mind getting more playing time but it’s working and that’s all I can ask for, he’s doing his part and I’m doing mine,” Miner said.
Both know that they will be rotated even when on fire in a game.
“I’m never satisfied, when I go in, I know I have to be pitch perfect and when something bad happens just not to dwell on it. I know I need to build that confidence and momentum up in order to win the game,” Garcia said.
They both have prepared themselves mentally to check out of the game at the coach’s need.
“I just have to keep my head in the game, I can’t go off rhythm and lose focus, when I go in, I do what I do best and keep it consistent throughout the game,” Miner said.
As the season has progressed Coach Kelley has stuck with the two QB system.
“They’re both getting a chance to play. I feel the rotation isn’t hurting us on offense and if it was then I would need to make a decision to go with one,” Kelley said.
No matter who is in the game the Coach Kelley and the Grizzlies are benefitting from it. Senior leadership from Garcia and a young sophomore who is the recipient of Garcia’s experience. Who knows how far this system will take the Grizzlies, but for now it seems to be working out just fine.