As stated in the Part 1 intro we can’t do an in-depth feature that includes all the top-notch quarterbacks in the Redwood Empire, so even though they all got a mention in the 2019 NCS Quarterbacks to Watch by Nate Smith on July 20, we chose two interesting stories to highlight Part 2 of the feature.
While Part 1 showcased the top two returning quarterbacks from the Redwood Empire, Part 2 has a fresh new face that sets a precedent at a school that recently has been a quarterback factory, and a returner from behind the Redwood Curtain that put up some big numbers with his right arm and legs.
Michael Ingrassia, Marin Catholic-Kentfield
Current Los Angeles Rams quarterback and budding superstar Jared Goff didn’t even take over the top spot as the Marin Catholic signal-caller until the second game of his junior season. Well, things are a little different on the Kentfield campus nine years later when it comes to the quarterback position.
Two weeks ago Marin Catholic Coach Mazi Moayed would not commit as to who was going to be his starting quarterback, but last Monday morning he announced his decision in an interview when he named incoming sophomore Ingrassia as his starter.
“Right now Michael Ingrassia is going to be our guy this year,” Moayed said. “The only question is do we rotate Gaven (Cooke) in with him at first or not, but we’ll see. We’ve still got a couple of weeks left and I think Michael can be that guy.”
Maybe Ingrassia can be that guy but starting a sophomore is certainly something that is out of the box for one of the most successful young coaches in Northern California who has amassed a 108-19 record in nine years at the Wildcats helm.
“Usually you like to go with a guy that’s a little more experienced and a little more of a veteran and what not,” Moayed continued. “But that’s one of the reasons last year we pulled Michael up from JV. Michael’s going to be a special guy that plays at the next level no doubt.”
Having quarterbacks that play at the next level was a rarity in the Marin County Athletic League and the Redwood Empire in general until recently, but since Goff went off to Cal the next three consecutive starting quarterbacks at Marin Catholic have gone on to full scholarships. Morgan Mahalak followed Goff and went to Oregon, Darius Peterson was next and went to College of Idaho, and finally it was Spencer Petras and he’s at Iowa.
After passing for 1,283 yards and 10 TDs and rushing for 1,026 yards and 13 more scores, Cooke, who will move to slotback and wideout on offense and continue at safety on defense, where he has an offer from the University of San Diego and some other interest, is fine with the move. Besides, he is probably going to be more dangerous if Ingrassia gets him the ball in the flat or on the fly where he can use his speed and toughness to chew up yardage.
“Oh heck yes,” said Moayed when asked about wanting to get the ball in Cooke’s hands on offense. “Gaven is so dynamic. We want him to touch the ball and he’ll do what he does best. Gaven wants what’s best for the team and he’s going to be playing safety or receiver in college.”
Not only is Cooke fine with the move but he also feels it will help him both on offense and defense.
“The whole team is behind him and I support Michael, and want to do what I can to help him succeed,” Cooke said. “Not playing quarterback I look forward to still getting the ball in my hands a lot on offense and scoring even more, and on defense I had to hold back a little last year and now I don’t have to do that.”
Besides having an arm and showing enough maturity for the job, Ingrassia is a dual threat and not just a pocket passer. Besides passing for 429 yards and seven TDs in limited action last season he rushed for 87 yards and three additional scores.
“I think I’ve grown a lot from the shoulders up since last season,” Ingrassia said. “I still have room for improvement like working on my footwork and learning the plays, but I’m ready for the challenge.”
Cooke will be there to back up Ingrassia but if Marin Catholic is to go further than they went last season when they lost a 16-15 heartbreaker to Bishop O’Dowd in the North Coast Section Division II championship game, it looks like it will be with a sophomore under center.
Everything previous of this in the Ingrassia portion of this feature was written before he took the field against Bishop O’Dowd last Wednesday in a 7-on-7 at Oakland in 90-degree heat.
We must say, he didn’t look like an incoming sophomore. He want three and out on the first series with three balls that were catchable but weren’t caught, but from then on he turned some heads.
“I started off a little slow but then got in a groove,” said Ingrassia when asked about how he felt about his performance. “Overall I think our team did well against a really good team.”
What did Moayed think about the performance of his budding young star after the O’Dowd match-up?
“I have been pleased with Michael’s progress throughout the summer,” remarked Moayed after the scrimmage. “He has gained a solid understanding of our offense and has shown the ability to execute it well. I’m most impressed with his character and maturity.”
Ingrassia and the Wildcats will open at home on August 24 with El Cerrito.
Will Omey, St. Bernard’s-Eureka
One of the reasons we split the Redwood Empire quarterback feature into two parts, and it all didn’t go out prior to now, was because Omey was at the family’s cabin near Orleans on the Klamath River around 75 miles northwest of Eureka, and cell service was spotty to say the least.
We really couldn’t feature the top quarterback from Behind the Redwood Curtain without some quotes either verbally or by text message. Plus, Crusaders Coach Matt Tomlin was busy as the head coach of the Humboldt Eagles American Legion U19 team that made it all the way to the American Legion Department of California State Baseball Tournament where their action concluded on Sunday with a not too shabby fourth-place finish.
As for Omey, he’s back from being out in the forest and ready to roll. After an early Monday morning workout we finally caught up with him.
“My football IQ has gone up since last year,” remarked Omey, but it’s still likely behind the 4.6 GPA the student-athlete carries in the classroom. “I know the offense a lot better than last year and I’m more comfortable making decisions.”
Last year Omey was 155 of 245 for 2,271 yards and 31 TDs with seven interceptions. He also rushed 233 times for 1,413 yards and 19 more scores.
He only went over 300-yards twice but his biggest passing game was when he threw for 291 yards and seven touchdowns in a 56-54 win over Humboldt-Del Norte Big 4 rival Fortuna. In total in that game Omey accounted for all the scores after rushing for 85 yards and an eighth score.
His biggest game overall came in a season-ending 49-47 heartbreaking loss to San Marin-Novato in the North Coast Section Division IV quarterfinals. Will rushed for 260 yards on a whopping 43 carries with five touchdowns. In the air he passed for 277 yards and two TDs, but Omey also had two of his seven picks in the game, and that’s something he’s conscious of improving on.
“Some of my goals are to improve my completion percentage and throw less interceptions,
said Omey, who grew and inch and put on 10 pounds since last season and is now 6-1 and 185-pounds. “I also want to get faster but more than anything just getting ready for my senior season by getting out there on the field every day with my teammates.”
Tomlin sees some room for improvement as well.
“Will throws the deep ball well and is accurate on his screen passes, but he needs to improve on his intermediate passing and improve his completion percentage on the intermediate passes,” Tomlin remarked. “
Omey also plays defense and he’s got solid numbers on that side of the ball as well. From his cornerback position he had 69 tackles (60 solo) and three pass interceptions.
“I think overall I’ve become a smarter player on both sides of the ball,” Omey said.
Speaking of smart, it would appear with a 4.6 GPA and physical tools on the field that Omey would have a lot of schools looking at him, but when you’re from Behind the Redwood Curtain one can be a bit off the radar screen as well.
“I love football, and I would love to play in college,” Omey said. “I’m looking for the best academic school I can get into, and if I can play football there that is even better. I hope one helps the other.”
College is a ways off but the season is right around the corner. In the six seasons since Tomlin took the reins in 2013, the Crusaders have gone 66-14 and in 2015 not only did they go 14-1 and win the NCS Division V title, but a CIF Division V-A state Bowl Game championship with dual-threat quarterback Jack Rice under center, so expectations are always high.
Last year they were not only moved up to the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 4 from the Little 3 but they were in Division IV for the third-straight season, and a tough schedule, including Marin Catholic, and a close 23-21 road loss to Washington small-school power Tri-Cities Prep-Pasco, only produced a 7-5 record. With the new realignment of the NCS playoff structure St. Bernard’s is in Division 6 in the 7-division format, and at this point the Crusaders are looking like one of the favorites.
“My teammates and I share the same goal, win every game,” Omey said. “I’m thinking about more than NCS. I’m thinking about state. That’s what I’m thinking about every year.”
To get to state will take leadership and some big games from Omey.
As for the big games Will chuckled his answer. “Hopefully I have a few of them.”
When asked about leadership Tomlin said this about his star. “Will has improved in leadership and is a solid team leader and leads by example and verbally. “He’s going to be a senior and an example is how he’s taken a leadership role with helping organize off season workouts and skill development.”
“I expect a monster season from Will. He’s a great player,” Tomlin said in conclusion.
We’ll find out soon enough as St. Bernard’s opens on August 23 at El Molino-Forestville.
Other Redwood Empire quarterbacks that made the July 20 list not featured
Jacob Aaron, Vintage-Napa
Trevor Anderson, Santa Rosa
Trevor Bell, Eureka
Jullian Clavelle, Fort Bragg
Yonaton Isack, Piner-Santa Rosa
Daniel Martinez, St. Helena
Matt Sargent, San Marin-Novato