USC quarterback commit Jake Garcia made the difficult decision over the summer to transfer to the fourth high school of his prep career. And on Friday night, he was able to illustrate exactly why he made that call.
With California high schools unable to participate in fall sports until January and Garcia on track to enroll early, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback said he felt he needed to see some game action during his senior season rather than simply work out on his own over the coming months and head into college without seeing those live bullets as a senior.
So Garcia landed at Valdosta High School in Georgia, one of the preeminent football programs in the nation. And he did not get a chance to ease into high school football in a completely new area of the country for him, as his Valdosta team lined up against a Warner Robbins team that lost by just three points in the 5A State Championship Game last season, and has reached that state championship game each of the last three years.
It was a rough start for Garcia, who threw an interception, fumbled twice and was sacked a handful of times in the first half. If he wanted live game action, he certainly got it over those first 30 minutes, as the Valdosta offensive line could not keep a clean pocket for him and he was pressured consistently.
He didn’t have much time to get ready for the game, as he had roughly a month to form any kind of bond with his offensive teammates and grasp the playbook, and was only named the starter earlier this week. Valdosta head coach Russ Propst told the Valdosta Daily Times, “The first half, he was just lost. He was lost –– first game jitters, a new environment, a new place, all that kind of stuff.”
Garcia got no help from a running game that produced just 35 yards on 32 carries, but was able to turn it on in the second half, as Propst was quoted as saying they simplified things for Garcia, who was also working without the benefit of a scrimmage or any kind of tune up game.
Garcia was banged up a bit during the game, as he displayed a noticeable limp at times, but he toughed it out and was able to continue playing, upping his game in the second half.
Garcia found a receiver for a 56-yard touchdown more than halfway through the third quarter, as he helped cut the deficit to 19-17. Then, after Warner Robbins went ahead 25-17, Garcia lofted a deep ball down the left sideline that his receiver was able to run under in stride and take into the endzone for a 45-yard touchdown with 8:25 left in the game. Garcia converted the ensuing two-point conversion to tie the game.
Valdosta got the ball back and Garcia engineered a game-winning field goal drive to give his team a season-opening 28-25 win.
Garcia finished the game having completed 22-of-34 passes for 332 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
At this point, Garcia is the only USC commitment that Trojan fans will be able to watch for the next few weeks. USC has 13 commitments from the states of California, Nevada and Washington, which have postponed their high school football seasons until January or later. Maryland, where USC has one commitment, has not made an announcement yet on a start date. Texas will be the next state for USC fans to watch, as wide receiver commit Quay Davis (Dallas/Skyline) is set to begin his senior season with a game on Sept. 25, and tight end commit Lake McRee (Austin, Tex./Lake Travis) will start his season on Oct. 1. Running back commit Brandon Campbell (Katy, Tex./Katy) has already announced that he will sit out his senior season in order to prepare to enroll early at USC.
Garcia is also one of the USC commitments on Flip Watch, as Miami has not stopped its pursuit of the four-star quarterback and the Hurricanes will undoubtedly use their newfound proximity to recruit him even harder. USC also holds a commitment from four-star quarterback Miller Moss (Mission Hills, Calif./Alemany), but bringing in two quarterbacks in this class has been a priority for USC, as the Trojans have just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster right now.