QB competition has Vista coach excited

By: Nick Pecoraro
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School is back in session, and along with that means that real high school football games are right around the corner.

After a stellar year from graduating senior Brent Schaeffer, who put up massive numbers in 2016, the Vista del Lago Eagles have major shoes to fill. Schaeffer’s 3,681 passing yards was the third-highest total in the Sac-Joaquin Section. He threw 49 touchdowns and was named to the All-Metro second team.

Fifth-year coach Mike Struebing says there is a healthy competition for the starting job between senior Nate Cromwell and junior Grant Patterson. Struebing is excited for both of the contrasting styles that each QB can bring to the offense.

“Both guys can do some really good things,” said Struebing.

Cromwell got into six varsity games last season behind Schaeffer and completed 10 of his 13 pass attempts. He also got to be the understudy of Schaeffer, whose work ethic, preparation, and leadership rubbed off on Cromwell.

“From Brent, I learned how to take control of the offense,” said Cromwell. “Leadership is important. Watching Brent made you step back and realize how important it is to be more than a passer, but to be a good leader.”

Patterson led the JV Eagles to a 4-1 league record last season and was able to observe a little varsity action after being called up for the postseason. 

“I fell in love the way (Schaeffer) controlled the offense and moved the ball and how patient they all were waiting for things to develop,” said Patterson.

The two quarterbacks are friends off the field and have trained together over the summer. Regardless of who starts, they both understand they have to keep the same mentality of preparation during practice and before every game. When asked about each other’s prospects, they both have team-first attitudes and are very complimentary toward each other.

“We’re two totally different players, and I think that works well for our offense,” said Cromwell. “I’m more of a pocket passer, and Grant is really athletic. We kind of bounce off of each other. All I can do is be the best I can be. If I need to, I can be there as a backup, or try to get offense somewhere else. I think I can be a really good receiver if I had to be.”

Patterson said that his relationship with Cromwell has gotten closer through the training they’ve done together as well as throughout this starting competition.

“We kind of even each other out. We go back and forth,” he said of Cromwell. “We help each other improve on our weaknesses. Nate is more comfortable in the pocket. I’ve always been a scrambling quarterback. That’s how I like to leave my mark. I support Struebing’s decision either way. I’ll just be ready to grasp the opportunity whenever it comes and keep working with the same mindset.”

Struebing said that he feels great about whichever QB gets the starting role. The season kicks off on Aug. 25 at Oak Ridge before the Eagles open up their new home stadium at Vista del Lago High School on Sept. 1 against Ponderosa.

“Cromwell has had an opportunity to be around. He understands me. He moves really well. He’s great outside the pocket and has tremendous touch, which is hard to find at high school level. He has a great understanding of the game within the game and has a ton to offer,” said Struebing. “Patterson is a taller kid. He’s 6-foot-3, lanky, but he’s athletic. He throws a good ball. He’s going to be dynamic. He really is. I’m excited for how he’s developed. I love his work ethic, and I like how he leads.

“That’s the fun part as a coach.”