Benefield: SRJC football faces must-win matchup
When the Santa Rosa Junior College football team heads south to take on City College of San Francisco Saturday, it represents not only a must-win situation in Bay 6 Conference play for the Bear Cubs, but a deja vu showdown between two of the most prolific prep quarterbacks to play in the Redwood Empire in recent years.
The Bear Cubs, 5-3 overall and 1-2 in the Bay 6, are led by freshman Jake Simmons, who — as a senior at Rancho Cotate last season — put up outrageous numbers every week while leading the Cougars to a 10-2 season before losing to Cardinal Newman in the North Coast Section semifinals.
As a senior, Simmons threw for 3,574 yards with a completion rate of 65 percent. He tossed for 46 touchdowns and had just eight interceptions.
On the other side of the field Saturday will be 2017 Analy High grad Jack Newman. Newman threw for 4,488 yards as a senior in 2016, with an average of 345 yards per game. He had 55 touchdowns on the season and just five picks.
In their only head-to-head meeting in high school, Analy beat Rancho in, yes, an offensive shootout, 63-46.
And check out these stat lines from that 2016 game: Newman was 22-of-28 for 434 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Simmons, a junior when the two teams met that year, was 30-of-39 for 562 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Their quarterback ratings? Newman’s was 157 and Simmons was 157.9.
So fast-forward to Saturday’s 1 p.m. game and the reunion of these two arms. Expect a shootout. The Bear Cubs are putting up an average of 31 points per game and the Rams average 34 points a game.
Since winning the starting job for the resurgent Bear Cubs, Simmons has been nearly as prolific for Santa Rosa as he was as a prep star.
He has thrown for 2,044 yards in eight games (not all of them complete outings), and has a completion rate of 55 percent. He has 20 TDs to seven interceptions.
On the other side, Newman has thrown for 2,588 yards in eight games, running up a completion rate of 62 percent. He has thrown for 24 touchdowns and been picked off 10 times.
While Newman’s numbers sparkle a little more, Simmons is a bigger dual threat. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Simmons has more total rushing yards than any other Bear Cub.
“When the pass protection breaks down, of course he’s got the green light,” Santa Rosa coach Lenny Wagner said. “He has some big gains.
“We have to rely on the passing game and (Simmons’) ability to escape,” Wagner said.
For San Francisco, that’s less of an option.
Among Newman’s incredible stats is this number: 44. He’s been sacked 44 times this season. It’s not a typo — I checked with head coach Jimmy Collins.
“We haven’t had a sack number like that in … ever,” he said.
Newman is a pocket passer by design. And a hyper-accurate and talented one. But Collins said in the Rams’ two losses this season, they got behind, “got predictable and had to pass.”
Add to that a young offensive line and a first-year college quarterback learning to not hang on to the ball quite so long and you’ve got, well, you’ve got 44 sacks.