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For Starters, Cal Lutheran Will Go With Hernandez

Football: He gets the nod at quarterback over Jensen and Brown when Kingsmen play at Menlo today.


Like a Hail Mary pass, the job as Cal Lutheran's starting quarterback has been up for grabs.

Zack Hernandez has a bead on it, but whether he will gather it in and hold it will depend in part on how he performs today when the Kingsmen open against Menlo College in a 1 p.m. nonconference game at Menlo.

"I got the nod to start, now it's up to me keep the job," said Hernandez, a junior who led L.A. Baptist High to the 1993 Southern Section Division X championship and set 21 school passing records for the Knights.

"There is pressure for me to perform, but if I don't and I have a lousy game, then I probably shouldn't be in there being the starter anyway."

Just who the starter should be has been the topic of considerable debate. Eric Jensen and Derek Brown are in close competition with Hernandez and are also expected to play today.

Hernandez was tabbed as the starter earlier this week, Coach Scott Squires said, "because we felt like . . . we had to give somebody 34% of the [repetitions in practice]."

Hernandez is in his second tour of duty at Cal Lutheran. He attended Cal Lutheran as a freshman before transferring to Valley for a year. He rejoined the Kingsmen last season.

Hernandez was backup to senior Ryan Huisenga last season, playing in seven games. Jensen and Brown transferred in this year.

"Not a lot has changed since we started practicing in August," Squires said. "Nobody has really stepped up and separated themselves from the other guys. It may have to be like it was last year. We may have to platoon them a little bit until somebody steps up."

Thus, the stage is set for a showdown today. All three quarterbacks view the opener as a critical opportunity.

"Just to be named the starter is a confidence booster for me," Hernandez said. "Now the way to separate myself is for me to have a good, solid game."

Jensen, a junior transfer from Pacific Lutheran, and Brown, a senior transfer from Cal State Northridge, share similar goals.

"It's definitely been close all the way," Jensen said. "On the field, there's a sense of everybody trying real hard. There's a lot of intensity."

Besides greater familiarity with the offense, Hernandez (6 feet, 190 pounds) brings more mobility to the position than his competitors. Last season, he rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown and completed 28 of 64 passes for 307 yards.

Stronger than Hernandez and Brown, Jensen (6-1, 213) stands in and reads defenses well. Squires said he has made the steadiest improvement.

Brown (6 feet, 170), stuck behind record-setting passer Aaron Flowers at Northridge last season, is perhaps the most polished passer, but he is to learning a new system.

Brown greeted the announcement that Hernandez was starting by skipping practice Monday before talking to Squires and returning to the team that night.

"I didn't come here for any other reason than to be the starting quarterback and I was just like, 'Man, I can't believe it,' " Brown said. "I couldn't really argue with it because I haven't really been doing as well as I can, but I was kind of upset that they even had to make that decision."

Whether the decision stands remains to be seen.

"It's a tough choice because we all want the same thing but we've all been up and down and we all have different strengths," Jensen said. "But the coaches have definitely given the three of us an opportunity to show what we can do."

Another opportunity knocks today. The Kingsmen just have to see who answers.


Cal Lutheran (0-0) at Menlo (0-0)

When: Today at 1 p.m.

Where: Connor Field

Fast fact: The Kingsmen ended last season with a 59-41 victory over Menlo.

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