SAN DIEGO — When Jeff Sturch graduated from Clairemont High School as an all-league and All-San Diego Section pitcher, he was offered a partial scholarship to the University of Hawaii, one of the country's strongest collegiate programs.
But Sturch spurned the Hawaii offer to take a chance at a future in football, even though he did not start playing the sport competitively until his sophomore year in high school.
"I was burned out on baseball," Sturch said. "I'd been playing baseball since I was 7 years old."
Fortunately for San Diego Mesa College, Sturch opted to throw footballs instead of baseballs.
Sturch has led San Diego Mesa (6-4) to its second straight appearance in the San Diego National Football Foundation Bowl Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Balboa Stadium. The Olympians are ranked No. 13 in Southern California and will play Mission Conference rival Grossmont College (6-3-1) in the third annual bowl game. San Diego Mesa defeated Grossmont, 22-14, earlier this season.
Sturch enters the game as the all-time national community college career completion leader. He became the first community college quarterback to complete 400 passes when he finished the regular season with 401 career completions.
He is also tied with San Mateo College's Tom Martinez for the state lead in passing yardage this season with 2,678 yards. Sturch was 215 of 407 with 22 touchdowns in 10 games this season.
Sturch didn't start to play football until he was a sophomore in high school, and his start at quarterback was uneventful at best.
Madison High School's offense was geared toward the running game so much that Sturch and another quarterback were used to bring in plays his junior season. Sturch transferred to Clairemont his senior season and passed for more than 1,900 yards.
Because he had little football experience, Sturch did not receive a football scholarship offer.
Now, with two strong passing seasons behind him, Sturch said he has received interest from Florida, Georgia Tech and Cincinnati.
"I'm just looking to go on to the next level and get my degree," said Sturch, who is majoring in criminal justice. "I don't have my redshirt year, so the schools interested in me are looking for someone who can start right away."
Sturch is hoping to impress college scouts who may be in attendence at Saturday's bowl game. Last season, Sturch had an uninspiring game as San Diego Mesa lost to Southwestern, 23-0, in a light rain. Sturch and backup quarterback Ron Bradley combined for 12 of 39 passing for 141 yards and 4 interceptions.
"There are going to be a lot of college recruiters there," Sturch said. "So, it is important for me to do well. But it's important for me to do well playing catch."
Grossmont Community College runner Mark Dani set a meet record on his way to the state cross-country title. Dani's time of 19 minutes broke the previous record by 11 seconds.
Dani finished 10 seconds ahead of L.A. Trade Tech's Angel Hernandez, 29, from Mexico. Hernandez defeated Dani at the Southern California championships.
Dani, who transferred to Grossmont from Wisconsin after his freshman season last year, led the Griffins to a second-place finish in the state meet with 70 points. West Valley (San Jose) became the first men's team from Northern California to win the state title in the event's 24 years.
It was the 17th time in the last 20 years that Grossmont has either won or finished second in the state championships. Grossmont has won 12 state titles since then.
San Diego Mesa finished fourth, led by Carter Yarborough's 12th-place finish (19:56).
MiraCosta finished second in the women's championships. Orange Coast won the women's title with 62 points and MiraCosta followed with 68. Tessie Hartman led MiraCosta with an 11th-place finish (18:22) over the 5,000-meter course. Janice Sellon of Mt. SAC won the women's race in 17:07.
The Grossmont College women's volleyball team is seeded second in the state championship tournament. The Griffins (14-1) won their third straight Pacific Coast Conference title and will play Chaffey College at 7:30 tonight at Grossmont. The Griffins received a first-round bye, and Chaffey defeated Orange Coast. The winners of the eight second-round matches advance to the state tournament at Cypress College Dec. 5 and 6.
Rudy Suwara, San Diego State women's volleyball coach, said the Aztecs may have an easier schedule in future seasons. SDSU (14-16) has not been selected to a postseason tournament since 1977. SDSU finished the season unranked for the first time since 1976, Suwara's second season as coach.
Suwara attributes a tough schedule as part of the reason the Aztecs did not make the NCAA tournament.
"We're going to schedule a little easier," Suwara said. "We have to lighten up on the schedule. But if we had beaten the teams we should have, we would have been in the tourney."