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CIF title week: Why not Jake Wallace?

Valencia senior could be the first signal caller in school history to win CIF title

Posted: December 4, 2013 10:45 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2013 10:45 p.m.

Valencia High senior quarterback Jake Wallace is second in the Southern Section in passing yards and led the Vikings to their fifth straight Foothill League championship. Now the question is, will he lead them to their first CIF championship?

 

The conversation turns to Jake Wallace on Tuesday afternoon during championship week inside the Valencia High physical education office.

Valencia High Principal Dr. Paul Priesz and Valencia football defensive coordinator Robert Waters had just been marveling over the fact that this could be the team that breaks through and wins the school’s first CIF football championship when it plays Hart on Friday at Valencia High in the Southern Section championship game.

There are guys identified with Valencia High football — two running backs who made it to the NFL in Manuel White and Shane Vereen, guys who played for big-time college football programs like Shane Morales and Kaelen Jakes and the state’s all-time leading passer Michael Herrick.

None of them won a CIF title.

Then Priesz remembers what he told Wallace, the Vikings senior quarterback, after Valencia shocked then-Foothill League favorite Hart 24-19 on Nov. 1.

“I told him, ‘We’ve had Herrick and Vereen, (two-time All-CIF quarterback Alex) Bishop and (current UCLA running back Steven) Manfro. None of them won a CIF championship,’” Priesz recalls saying.

Then he said “Why not you?”

Why not Jake Wallace?

There are reasons people might think why not.

Valencia football head coach Larry Muir admits that Wallace doesn’t have the strongest arm, doesn’t have the best speed, doesn’t have the size one desires in a quarterback and doesn’t have the history. However, Wallace has done one thing more than any other quarterback in the Santa Clarita Valley — win big games.

“It is interesting to be that overlooked and to be the Foothill League champion, to have gone head-to-head with a lot of good quarterbacks and to have won, yet he doesn’t seem to get the credit, or whatever you want to call it,” Muir says.

Wallace is second in the Southern Section with 3,680 passing yards. The 18-year-old has completed 66 percent of his passes and has 33 touchdowns to 10 interceptions — six of those picks came in two games.

Maybe people don’t hold Wallace in high esteem because of who he is compared to — the Southern Section’s leading passer from Hart, Brady White, who has two NCAA Division I scholarship offers as a junior, and Canyon High’s Cade Apsay, who will be playing for the University of Colorado next year.

Does Wallace care?

“I think people who know football and know the game of football well know my importance and my role to the team,” Wallace says.

And there’s one thing that Wallace has on those two quarterbacks — wins.

Against Hart on Nov. 1, Wallace was steady — 15-of-25 for 220 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception.

Against Canyon the week prior, he was spectacular — 22-of-25 for 326 yards and three touchdowns to one interception.

Even in Valencia’s two losses this season, Wallace has been good — 433 passing yards in a defeat by Chaminade on Sept. 12 and 241 against Loyola on Oct. 4.

For years, Wallace has been quietly preparing for these moments.

He’s been playing football since he was a 7-year-old.

Born and raised in the Santa Clarita Valley, Wallace won two youth Super Bowls for the Canyon Country Outlaws program with his father, John, guiding him.

“He’s always has been on winning teams, for whatever reason. I don’t know if it’s chemistry or what,” John says.
Wallace says his father teaches much in the same fashion as Muir, which has allowed the quarterback to have success at Valencia.

This is the same Muir who has turned players with similar stature into prep football stars.

Wallace, at 5 feet, 11 inches tall and 185 pounds, falls in line with All-CIF quarterbacks Sean Murphy, who he was a backup for last year, Alex Bishop and Herrick — all guys who weren’t tall or big but enjoyed phenomenal success for the Vikings and won Foothill League titles.

It’s not just the system that helps for Wallace, it’s who he has surrounding him.

Receivers Nick Jones and Jay Jay Wilson are big targets — one, Jones, is extremely quick with hands like magnets, and the other, Wilson, who is big and physical and is a matchup nightmare. He also has arguably the quickest and most elusive slot receiver in the league in Malik Townsend.

Each of those receivers has at least 45 catches, 700 yards and seven touchdowns, and each is averaging at least 14 yards per catch.

Because of their play, Wallace has been lost in many conversations.

Muir says he shouldn’t be.

“A lot of people would make the point that he has great receivers to throw to, and he does. But as a quarterback, he has to deliver it, and he’s done a good job of that,” Muir says.

Ask his receivers what he has meant.

“We wouldn’t be where we’re at,” says Valencia’s leading receiver Jones. “He has definitely led us through every game and rallied us up.”

Jones says Wallace reads defenses so well that he tells Jones about adjustments he can make.

Jones says he hates playing football video games against Wallace because he reads the defenses on the game so well.

“He has always killed me,” Jones says.

There are other things Wallace does well that people should notice.

Muir points them out.

“Two things that don’t get enough credit are his decision-making and two is his ball placement, his accuracy. Being able to put the ball on the inside shoulder, outside shoulder, away from a defender. He’s done that well,” Muir says.

Make that three things.

He wins.

And now he’s in the position to win the biggest one in school history.

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