VAN NUYS — One still wears braces on his teeth, the other is too young to drive a car.
But Nick Czernek of Newbury Park High and Zac Wasserman of Westlake, two fuzzy-faced quarterbacks expected to grow up in a hurry this fall, have taken the helm of two of the Marmonte League's most potent passing attacks.
Czernek (6 feet 1, 185 pounds), a junior and converted wide receiver, and Wasserman (6-3, 195), a sophomore unexpectedly thrust into a starting role, spent Friday sharpening their spirals at the 32-team Valley College passing tournament.
Czernek threw five touchdown passes in a first-round victory over University. Wasserman had four scoring throws in a victory over Eagle Rock. The tournament resumes today at 10 a.m. and concludes with a championship game at 5 p.m.
Last season, Newbury Park and Westlake ranked first and second in the league in passing. Historically, both schools have thrived by throwing.
Czernek's brother, Chris (1994-96), and Keith Smith ('91-93) combined for more than 19,000 passing yards and 167 touchdown passes the past six seasons.
"For the past six years, we've really only (played with) one quarterback," Newbury Park Coach George Hurley said. "Whenever we needed someone to take a snap and fall down, we had No. 34 come in or someone who could hand off the ball."
Czernek, who played quarterback as a freshman, spent last season on the varsity catching 30 passes from his brother, including two for touchdowns.
He won't have himself to throw to, but he will have senior Jake Farrel, who caught 44 passes last season, including five for touchdowns.
"This (tournament) has helped me make my arm stronger," Czernek said. "I thought it would be hard coming back because I had a whole year off, but it started clicking right away.
"Right now, I'm trying to establish myself as a leader more. I'm a younger guy and the other guys have been here. I want to have the whole team's respect."
Wasserman faces a similar situation as the first sophomore quarterback to start at Westlake since Todd Preston in 1988. Wasserman succeeds Casey Preston, who passed for 3,565 yards and 37 touchdowns last season.
"If you look at the history of quarterbacks at Westlake High, most have been seniors who have waited their turn and learned," Westlake Coach Jim Benkert said. "Even Casey Preston was a junior in his sixth game before he started."
Wasserman was expected to spend most of this season on the bench, but senior and projected starter Kjell Nesen transferred to St. Francis last month.
Wasserman has a strong arm and throws a sharp spiral, but he tends to overthrow receivers, including several on Friday.
"I have trouble with my reads," Wasserman said. "Like what should I do if Joey Cuppari isn't open. (Benkert) wants me to throw to Joey the most. But what do I do if he's not open."
Wasserman's passing helped lead Westlake to the championship of the 40-team Cal State Northridge tournament and a third-place finish in the Cal Lutheran tournament.
But when the weather cools off, the competition will really heat up.
"I feel pressure," Wasserman said. "But I think I can manage it."