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These two are switch hits

Upland and Los Osos quarterbacks traded their baseball dreams for football success.

October 24, 2008|Ben Bolch | Bolch is a Times staff writer.

Josh Nunes and Richard Brehaut figured their arms would take them places.

Palo Alto and Westwood?

More like Anaheim and New York.

Those were once the dream destinations of the Pacific 10 Conference-bound quarterbacks who until only a few years ago projected as major league baseball players.

Nunes was a hard-throwing right-hander who once struck out all 18 batters in a Little League game. Brehaut was a catcher with a penchant for throwing out would-be base stealers.

Then they traded in foul lines for yard lines as high school freshmen, and it quickly became apparent that the standouts from the same Inland Empire neighborhood had plotted another course.

A collision course.

They will compete against one another for the fourth consecutive year when Upland High plays at Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos tonight in a key Baseline League football game. And the rivalry won't end there.

Nunes is headed for Stanford after his record-setting career at Upland; Brehaut will enroll at UCLA this spring after attempting to lead Los Osos to at least a share of its fourth consecutive league title.

"They're both going to their dream colleges in the Pac-10," said Tim Nunes, Josh's father. "It's like a fairy tale."

Brehaut (pronounced BREE-ho) has the upper hand in the rivalry so far. His Grizzlies have defeated Nunes' Highlanders in two of three meetings. Just last week, Brehaut chalked up another triumph at the Rose Bowl when UCLA pulled out a last-minute victory over Stanford.

Not that he would ever rub it in.

"We're just real classy guys," Brehaut said with a smile.

They're also really talented quarterbacks. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Nunes is a drop-back passer whom quarterbacks guru Steve Clarkson labeled "an old-school flamethrower." Brehaut, 6-2 and 215 pounds, is more of a freelancer, able to use his elusiveness on counters and traps.

Both could quickly change the fortunes of their college teams.

"I would fully expect both of them to get playing time as freshmen, if not start at some point," Clarkson said.

At first, Nunes committed to Tennessee, but changed his pledge last month when Stanford offered a scholarship.

"Stanford's always been my No. 1 school," Nunes said. "I couldn't resist."

The Cardinal seemed a natural fit for a player with a 4.6 grade-point average who is also such a quick study at football that he made time to learn the blocking schemes of his offensive linemen.

Brehaut displayed his mastery of the comeback during the first game of his sophomore year, when he came off the bench to engineer a game-winning 86-yard drive. His quarterback sneak for a touchdown gave Los Osos a 21-20 victory over Aurora (Colo.) Overland.

"The biggest thing about Richard that makes him better than a lot of other people is his competitiveness," Grizzlies Coach Tom Martinez said. "When the game is on the line, he wants to be the one pulling the trigger and making the decisions."

Brehaut may have subconsciously picked UCLA as his college choice as a child, when he rooted for the Bruins during football games against USC because his aunts and uncles were cheering for the Trojans and he "didn't want to be on the bandwagon."

Of course, at the time Brehaut figured if he found his way to Westwood it would be on a baseball scholarship.

Nunes and Brehaut first became rivals in the Upland Pony League, where Nunes played for the Angels and Brehaut the Padres.

"He was pretty tough to get a hit off of," Brehaut recalled. "We went back and forth. He got me sometimes and I got some hits off him."

They played on the same all-star team but reverted to rivals as high school freshmen when they went out for their junior varsity football teams. It was then that Nunes logged his only triumph over Brehaut; Brehaut has won both meetings on the varsity level.

Both have recently given up baseball, and reluctantly so. Nunes said he did so last season to focus on recruiting and Brehaut said he won't be able to play this year because he's enrolling early at UCLA so he can participate in spring football practice.

Football united the rivals over Labor Day weekend when they were roommates at Clarkson's Super Seven quarterback retreat in Santa Barbara. They will also be teammates at the Under Armour All-American game in January in Orlando, Fla.

But first comes tonight's matchup between Upland (6-0 overall, 1-0 league), ranked No. 12 in the Southland by The Times, and No. 10 Los Osos (5-1, 1-0).

"We've always been competing against each other since we were playing baseball, so it's pretty natural," Brehaut said.

And next fall?

"We're going to pull for Richard for every game," Tim Nunes said, "except one every year."


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