August 28, 2010

James Burns: Monteon as dynamic as team would let him be

The numbers are damning, highlighted and overemphasized by the legacy of quarterbacks that came before him. Logan Todd. Brandon Garcia. Allen Huddleston.

The numbers are damning, highlighted and overemphasized by the legacy of quarterbacks that came before him.

Logan Todd.

Brandon Garcia.

Allen Huddleston.

All three annexed Central California Conference titles and Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths during their time under center, turning Merced football into one of the section's most feared Division-I teams.

In doing so, all three created an expectation that duped just about everyone on the Olive Avenue campus into believing Merced had become something of a quarterback factory.

Including head coach Rob Scheidt.

And then came a highly touted junior, Rudy Monteon, dubbed by many heading into the fall of 2009 as The Next Great Thing. The Coach's Dream. The Last Airbender.

Turns out, the only thing greater than the tall, mobile quarterback's talent was a complicated offense and a preconference schedule that would have left the Oakland Raiders shaking.

Here's how Monteon's debut went last fall, piece by shattered piece:

Bullard. Napa. Del Oro. Fresno Edison. Two section champions. Three section finalists. Four losses.

It was like handing the ball to a 15-year-old Pony League pitcher and asking him to shutdown the New York Yankees.

Naturally, Monteon buckled beneath the pressure and expectation.

In baseball lingo, his season never made it out of the first inning.

The numbers really were damning: four touchdowns to nine interceptions, zero TDs in the first five weeks of the season, and just a 41.8 percent completion percentage.

If it weren't for the emergence of running back Eric DeAnda, who rushed for 1,036 yards in just eight games, Merced's offense would have never left the locker room.

"Sure, there was a level of frustration. Rudy probably sensed that a lot," Scheidt said. "I think he also knew it wasn't always on him.

"It's like I've told everybody, a lot of his numbers from last year were skewed by the tough preseason. Not only did we have to throw a lot at him offensively, but had to play difficult opponents.

"He didn't have a lot of margin for error. In my experience, that's pretty tough for a quarterback coming to the varsity level."

On Friday, in a 14-13 loss to Paradise to start the season, Monteon showed small glimpses of the QB Scheidt hopes he'll become on a full-time basis.

There was no panic. He stood tall in the pocket, 6 feet, 3 inches of cement confidence. There were no breakdowns in communication and on a field full of talent, there was a clear understanding of this:

DeAnda might run for half a million yards and score more points than a basketball team this fall, but this isn't his team.

Offensive lineman Gary Womack is outspoken and physical and a returning all-conference player, but this isn't his team.

Jaquari People may wind up being the best player in the area, but this isn't his team, either.

For better or worse, Merced's hopes of another CCC title and playoff berth are pinned to...

Monteon's chest.

It's the burden you bear in a system that places its quarterback on a pedastal. Now whether he wears that pressure like a Superman cape or a scarlet letter is totally on him.

"Not to put pressure on Rudy, (but) we've always been that way. We want to be dynamic at quarterback," Scheidt said."We don't mind putting the game in that guy's hands. That's how we want to be. We want a quarterback that's multi-dimensional and causes defenses to take care of him."

The numbers weren't pretty Friday night. Monteon was just 5 of 21 for 32 yards, including 0 for 3 on Merced's final drive of the game.

What's more, he's now 4-7 as the team's starter, hardly a mark that will invoke confidence and faith in a fanbase begging for more.

But there's reason to believe. His performance Friday night suggests he's maturing, inching closer toward that tremendous expectation.

He was Merced's offense, toting the rock 12 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.

He begged Scheidt for the ball on a third-and-1, taking a potentially big second-half drive into his own hands.

The only knock on Monteon was that he didn't play defense. Or special teams. He wasn't throwing passes to himself or blocking for the backs.

On Friday, he was as dynamic as his teammates would let him be.

"Honestly, sky's the limit," Scheidt said. "If you look at (Monteon), he's 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and runs a legit 4.6 (40-yard-dash). ... Logan didn't have that kind of mobility. Brandon was a pure passer. And Allen was more of an athlete.

"If Rudy runs the system like we think he can, he'll be right up there with all three of those guys."

Damn the numbers.

At least Friday's.

James Burns is managing editor/sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at

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