On the football field, Jim Bonds and Ken Sollom have about as much in common as Tina Turner and Perry Como. Bonds, the quarterback for Hart High, plays the game as if his pants were on fire. Sollom, the quarterback at Canyon High, plays as if he's the one who set the fire and is calmly leaving the scene.
But off the field, Bonds and Sollom are very much alike. Quiet, polite and respectful.
For a couple of years, America has been repeatedly bopped over the head by the Chicago Bears and their zany quarterback, Jim McMahon. We should, however, try to remember that Jim McMahon is not a normal quarterback. Or a normal human being, for that matter. McMahon seems to enjoy sitting on a motor scooter while dressed as a bag lady and then asking, "Wasn't that fun?" Bonds and Sollom have their fun by working hard in school, just as hard on the football field and then beating the daylights out of opposing defenses.
"Both Jimmy and Ken are throwbacks to another era," said Hart Coach Rick Scott. "They approach football and life in general the way athletes did back in the '50s. No nonsense. The perfect jock types. They are just perfect kids, very much alike."
Bonds and Sollom, who will lead their teams Friday night at College of the Canyons in the season opener for both schools, have known each other since they were kids. They grew up just a few miles apart and played Little League baseball together. A strong friendship was blossoming between them with very similar interests. But when they enrolled in different schools, rivalschools, the friendship slowly fizzled away.
"It seems pretty strange how it ended up," Bonds said. "I always liked Ken. He's a really neat guy. We met because of sports, but in the end, we couldn't really get to be good friends because of sports. I came here and he went to Canyon, and we never really got together again. I would have liked to get to know him better, but I have to worry about what my friends and teammates here would think."
Canyon Coach Harry Welch has also seen the closeness in personalities between his quarterback and Bonds.
"It's kind of sad, really, that these two guys with so much in common never got to be close friends," he said. "I bet they would have been great friends. But they could just never get it together because of the situations they were thrust into. They are two of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet."
They will walk onto the same field Friday night but will never get closer than the width of the football field.
It is what they do on the field that has elevated both of them near the top of the Southern California high school quarterback rankings. As both embark on their senior seasons, they know that every move will be watched, filmed and re-watched by college scouts. USC and UCLA have expressed interest in Bonds and Sollom, and each receives bunches of letters each week from colleges across the country.
And again, it will be their football skills that keep them apart.
"I would never go to a college that Ken was going to," Bonds said. "If I wanted to go to a school and found out that Ken was going there, I'd go somewhere else. I sure wouldn't want to be competing against him for a job for four years."
"I'm sure we won't end up at the same college," he said. "People say we're supposed to be the best quarterbacks in Southern California, so I'm sure neither one of us wants the other around on the same team in college."
Bonds and Sollom have arrived at their lofty positions by very different routes. Bonds has attracted the attention of college recruiters with a scrambling, running style to go with his strong passing ability. Sollom has opened eyes by being a pure passer who finds the pocket and stays in it until a receiver gets open and then delivers the ball with a cannon.
"Everyone knows Jim has a great arm, but it's the little things that he does that makes him a top college prospect," said Scott, the Hart coach. "Things like being able to read coverages and knowing when to throw the ball. And he's got that X factor that sets him apart from the others, that quality of a winner. When you try to find weaknesses in Jim Bonds, what you end up with are some things that he just doesn't do really, really well. There are no weaknesses."
Except, of course, his height, which is not a great subject to bring up around the Hart coaching staff if you are heavily into longevity. The heavily muscled athlete, who is ranked among the top 200 high school football players in the country by the respected Max Emfinger rating service, is listed at six feet. He's probably a couple of shades shorter than that.
"It's so ridiculous, just ridiculous," said Scott. "His brother, Tom, is the quarterback at Cal Lutheran College. He was 5-9 or 5-10 when he was here, and he was automatically labeled too short. He is a great football player, but he got stuck with that 'too short' label, and it has really hurt him.