By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Each head coach had the same reaction after seeing the statistical fallout from Saturday’s football game between Mendocino College and College of the Redwoods: Somebody has made a mistake here.
“Our stat guy came in and showed me the sheet, and I was like, ‘What?’” Mendocino’s Chris Snyder reflected. “I thought they were completely wrong. Then then one of my assistants who charts the games looked at his play-by-play and said it was right on.”
Redwoods’ Chris Vicory had a similar, if delayed, response to the numbers after driving back to Eureka. “I didn’t think they were right,” Vicory said. “I went through the play-by-play the next day, and they were right.”
Considering that College of the Redwoods won a relentless 69-66 shootout, perhaps the coaches should have been prepared for anything. But this was surreal. The visiting Corsairs had 915 yards from scrimmage; the Eagles had 1,041. Mendocino freshman Jakorian Graves rushed for 257 yards. Redwoods quarterback Will Hissong passed for 573 yards and five touchdowns.
But one stat trumped all the rest. Trevor Taylor, the Eagles’ sophomore quarterback and a Ukiah High graduate — he played his high school games 4 miles from where he plays his JC games — completed 38 of 52 passes for 796 yards and nine touchdowns.
Yes, 796 yards. In one game.
Taylor’s performance had everyone scurrying for the record books, and as far as anyone could tell, it was the most productive passing game in the history of college football — at any level. The overall NCAA record is held by Zamir Amin of Menlo College (then a Division III school), with 731 yards against Cal Lutheran in 2000. The record for the FBS (or Football Bowl Subdivision, the big boys of the NCAA) is 716 by Houston’s David Klingler against Arizona State in 1990.
The NAIA record: 637 yards by Faulker University’s Josh Hollingsworth in 2011.
Junior-college statistics are harder to catalog, but The Press Democrat could not confirm a single-game output that tops Taylor’s. The previous California Community College Athletic Association record was 781 yards, by College of Marin’s Geary Davenport in a 72-69 loss to Solano College in 2002.
“It was a blast,” Taylor said. “It was one of the funnest experiences ever, just to see the guys out there playing hard. Our stadium was rocking, my whole family was there, my high school friends were there. It was one of best days you could ever ask for.”
And it was wholly unanticipated.
Before Saturday, Taylor was not the clear starter at quarterback for the Eagles. Snyder, who returned to Mendocino as head coach after spending six years there as offensive coordinator from 2004 to 2009, had been rotating Taylor and sophomore Andrew Paulson at the position. The two had split time over the five-game preseason, with neither player able to win the job outright as Mendocino went 1-4. Heading into the Redwoods game, Taylor had thrown for a total of 212 yards in 2013.
“I just felt going into this game that Trevor, for what we were trying to do offensively, gave us the best chance,” Snyder said. “And he made the most of it.”
Did he ever. Mendocino’s first two possessions ended in a lost fumble and a blocked field goal, while Redwoods scored twice to build a 14-0 lead. It looked like a runaway, but the Eagles picked up speed and the game turned into a classic shootout, with six lead changes and 34 total possessions — 20 of which ended in touchdowns.
Mendocino scored on Taylor’s 35-yard scoring pass to Daniel Thompson and tacked on a two-point conversion to go up 66-63 with 1:46 left, but that was too much time. Redwoods converted a fourth-and-5 with 21 seconds left, and scored with five seconds remaining on Hissong’s 6-yard pass to Caleb Lomboy-Chavez for a victory that neither team will soon forget.
“It’s not very often that a quarterback — and I’m talking about our quarterback — throws for 573 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s not the guy everyone is talking about,” Vicory said.
No, this week everyone was focusing on Taylor, who did his best to deflect the attention to teammates.
“Honestly, my goal for the game was to just play the whole game and execute the offense, and when we got in there, everyone played out of their mind,” Taylor said. “The offensive line blocked like their lives depended on it. I mean, there were plays 50 yards downfield, and linemen were sprinting down there to finish.”
It was a humble response to his huge day, but Taylor was right about the team effort.
“His receivers played fantastic,” said Vicory, who knows Taylor well; he was the Mendocino offensive coordinator last year before taking the job at Redwoods. “ … I know the quarterback will get most of the attention because it came from his hand, but a lot of those yards came after contact.”
Vicory also noted that he was missing five defensive starters for most of the game.
Still, Taylor clearly did an exceptional job of running the Eagles’ spread offense. He distributed passes to eight different receivers, and five of them caught touchdown passes (including two by Justin Robinson, who went to Upper Lake High). Snyder said Taylor has a very quick release and is a student of the game.
“He strives to get better,” Snyder said. “Most days between meetings and practice, he’s throwing around with his receivers. There’s a two-hour window where we don’t have anything, and he’s out there with four receivers, throwing. I didn’t tell him to do that. He’s gonna make mistakes playing the quarterback position, but he wants to be perfect.”
And at 5-foot-8, Taylor might have to be. That’s the one factor that could hold him back from playing for a four-year university. Taylor hopes to get his AA degree in child development, and to pursue a teaching credential. He also wants to keep playing football. Perhaps he just needed a little something to make the scouts take notice — something like a 796-yard game.
“I’m not a big stat guy, and I haven’t really pushed this,” Snyder said. “To the extent I have, it’s because it’s great for the kids, and it’s good for recruiting. It’s good PR, and it gets Mendocino a little more on the map, hopefully. And what a great kid to do it.”
You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.