Highly-touted freshman quarterback Beau Green chose Downey High over private school powers in Northern and Southern California, but will the Knights pick the phenom to start the season opener?
Green is locked in a battle with junior Bryce Gouker, the incumbent who started the Knights' playoff loss to Rocklin last fall. Downey coach Jeremy Plaa will pick a starter ahead of the team’s Aug. 10 scrimmages with Enochs, Beyer, Gregori, Sonora and El Capitan at Chuck Hughes Stadium.
Right now, Plaa says the competition is fierce.
Green and Gouker, a junior varsity call-up in 2017, have enjoyed considerable success through the summer season. The Knights reached the final at 7-on-7 tournaments in Fresno and Nevada, and went 5-0 and raised the trophy at its event on July 30.
“When they’ve been together, the competition has been through the roof and you can seek the kids getting better every day,” said Plaa, entering his 12th year at Downey. “Every 7-on-7, we’ve done really well. It all comes down to kids paying attention to detail. … It shows you the level of play that our quarterbacks are playing at because they’re constantly getting better.”
The spotlight shines brightest on Green, the son of former Denair and University of the Pacific football star Ryan Green.
The big-bodied, strong-armed freshman looked at St. Mary’s in Stockton and programs in Southern California, Plaa said, but chose one of the area’s most decorated public school programs. Downey won four straight Modesto Metro Conference titles from 2012-2016 with an offense predicated on the pass and moves into the Central California Athletic League this fall.
“There are a lot of parents, especially of eighth graders, they look to figure out what will be the best situation for the kids. ‘That program is going to give us a chance to get to the next level’,” Plaa said. “We’ve got so many college coaches coming through, I’m building relationships with all of these guys. I think that helps a family like the Green family. They see how serious we take football. We want the kids to get the kids to the next level.”
Green’s focus is on perfecting the offense, building chemistry with his wide receivers and winning a battle with Gouker that has been step for step.
“It’s a great privilege and honor to be competing as freshman,” Green said. “It’s not my job yet. I still have to work.”
When he is ready, Green has a chance to be special in the “Air Raid” attack.
Downey is the one program in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section that isn’t afraid to showcase its quarterback.
The Knights have averaged 341 pass attempts per season over the last seven years and produced the likes of Southern Utah’s Aaron Zwahlen, University of Redlands’ P.J. Wilson and Brett Neves.
“I think I fit the offense,” Green said.
Last season, junior Bryce Peterson ranked among the area’s leaders in passing yards and touchdowns. Peterson threw for 2,808 yards and 24 touchdowns, while completing 63 percent of his passes. However, he suffered an injury to this throwing shoulder in the regular season finale against Gregori, which kept him out of a Division II playoff loss to Rocklin.
Peterson, who has committed to UC Davis as an athlete, has moved to wide receiver, running back and defensive back, creating the opening for Green or Gouker.
After spending a summer with Green, Plaa understands the hype.
“He’s the most advanced freshman that we’ve had come into the program. Since I’ve been here, he’s the most prepared and polished quarterback that we’ve had come to Downey,” Plaa said. “People will compare him to Aaron, but Aaron didn’t play youth football. Beau did. He has a working knowledge of coverages and defenses. He has good support from his dad. He comes in way ahead of the game.”
Gouker isn’t going away without a fight, though.
The junior possesses a strong arm and mastery of the system. He’s also a bit more mobile than Green.
Gouker started in place of Peterson in a season-ending loss to Rocklin. He completed nine of his 20 passes for 90 yards and an interception.
Gouker admits to being “shocked” initially by the arrival of the highly-touted freshman, but welcomed the push.
“I was a little shocked, but it’s good,” Gouker said. “I need some competition.”