For the second-straight season Santa Clara Bruins Head Coach Burt Codera has transformed his top wide receiver into a quarterback. In 2018, Nick Garcia took over under center after three years as a receiver and the Bruins went 5-1 in the El Camino League. This past Friday night, senior receiver Joseph “Jojo” Hernandez made his debut at quarterback. All Hernandez did was lead the Bruins to their fourth win in five games to start the season. The debut came in the opening week of the De Anza league schedule. Hernandez didn’t throw a single touchdown pass and was intercepted twice, but he scored three touchdowns with his legs as Santa Clara knocked off the Fremont Firebirds 28-3.
Garcia was in attendance for Friday’s game and gave his former teammate some reminders about what to focus on after having gone through the same transition himself the season prior.
“He was just telling me about certain reads to make, he was definitely coaching me up,” remarked Hernandez on Garcia. “He’s always been coaching me up playing with him in past years. He was there for motivation talk throughout the game.”
“For his first time ever playing quarterback I thought he did really good,” commented coach Codera on Hernandez. “He threw a couple picks, but he was able to get loose in the open field and run around. We tried to call plays to put him in a position to be successful and at times it worked and at times it didn’t. I thought he handled the pressure well.”
On the opposite side of the field the Fremont offense struggled to move the ball consistently, but their defense and special teams came up with big plays. One of the two interceptions by the defense came via senior safety Gabriel Diaz Jr.
“Gabe is our senior leader. He’s really playing well on defense. He comes up and is outstanding in run support too,” noted Firebirds Head Coach Rob Swartz. “He made a couple of fantastic tackles tonight and [an] interception. Really proud of his effort tonight.”
“I feel like we executed better in the beginning, but towards the end of the game we didn’t have the fourth quarter mentality that we needed,” admitted Diaz on his squad’s performance. “Felt like we had some momentum at the start of the second half, but couldn’t sustain it.”
The Firebirds special teams were on point throughout the night. Not only did senior punter and tight-end Freddi Reyes deliver a booming punt early that helped field position, but junior Alan Molina drilled a 36-yard field goal towards the end of the first half. On the opening kickoff of the second half, the Firebirds kick coverage team forced a fumble and immediately got the ball back to their offense down just 14-3.
“That first punt felt good, but it’s just a matter of coming back and doing something with it,” said Reyes. “We have to make a play, we just weren’t consistent enough.”
Other notable standouts for both sides were Bailey Mungaray who scored the Bruins’ one other touchdown and the Firebirds’ Chris Suon who came up with an interception.
Next up for the Bruins (4-1) will be their home opener when they take on Palo Alto on Saturday, Oct. 5. Fremont (1-4) has a bye week, before they play at Palo Alto on Friday, Oct. 11.