Making decisions as a high school senior is hard enough, but imagine having a 114-game winning streak on the line with every decision and see how much tougher it gets. That's what quarterback Matt Gutierrez faces every week as the quarterback for De La Salle High School in Concord, California.
Following his team's 56-14 opening day win over Buchanan High from Clovis, Calif., in front of an estimated 7,500 fans in which he threw for 115 yards and one touchdown on 8-13 passing, the job doesn't get any easier for Gutierrez as his team faces 23rd-ranked Mater Dei High School from Santa Ana, Calif., this weekend at Pacific University in Stockton, Calif., in the first of a killer stretch run that will test the streak to the very limits. With number one Poly High from Long Beach waiting down the road, Gutierrez told Inside the Auburn Tigers the streak isn't a concern if the team does what it's supposed to do each and every time out on the field.
"It's not really about the number of games won or anything, it's more about the tradition at our school and the tradition of our football program," he says. "Like, if we were to lose a game but we played how we've been coached to play, played hard and didn't make a lot of mental mistakes and beat ourselves, then our coaches would be happy if we got beat by a better team. If we went out there and gave the game away, didn't play hard, and got beat by a team that we should have beaten, then our coaches would be disappointed in us."
As one of the more highly recruited quarterbacks in the country for the 2002 signing class, Gutierrez faces the pressure of perhaps the biggest decision of his life in the coming months. Having played in an environment where losing a game is akin to losing a limb, the 6-5, 235-pound Gutierrez says the experience has been a positive one for him since he took over the starting quarterback role as a sophomore.
"It's been a huge advantage for me because I've had to learn how to make decisions under pressure and how to deal with the decisions that I've made, both good and bad."
Saying that "I'm wide open as can be right now", Gutierrez notes that he has no qualms about traveling cross country in search of the school of his choice. One of the schools that he has heard from is Auburn. Not normally known for going out that far West to recruit, the Tigers are searching far and wide for a quarterback prospect and Gutierrez says he will give the Tigers a closer look in the coming weeks and months.
Self described as a quarterback who has a "strong enough arm to make the throws," Gutierrez listed his strengths and they form what most coaches look for in a quarterback in this day and age. "My feet are quick enough. I'm not blazing fast, but I'm pretty quick in small areas. I think my biggest strength is just my work ethic and my ability to prepare myself for games and practice and make smart decisions."
Right now it's likely a longshot that he'll be an Auburn Tiger, but somebody also thought they could beat De La Salle a few years ago as well. Stranger things have happened.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Another quarterback receiving attention from Auburn is Jones County, Ga., High School standout Justin Tyler. A 6-4, 220-pound classic dropback quarterback with a strong arm, Tyler is a player who will likely try to play both football and baseball in college. It's not surprising that the three schools he lists as favorites are all well versed on both the gridiron and the diamond.
"I'm basically looking at everybody right now," Tyler told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I'm just trying to keep my options open. I'm hearing from Georgia, Clemson and Auburn the most right now."
Tyler plans to take all his visits before making a decision and just like Gutierrez, he has yet to set up his first trip. As a junior, Tyler threw for over 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns in an offense that utilizes both the Wing-T and Run-and-Shoot formations.
A quarterback who has continued to make his name a household word in recruiting circles is Hewitt-Trussville High School left-hander Brandon Cox. A 6-2, 180-pounder with laser-like precision on his passes, Cox has led the Huskies to a perfect 3-0 start this season by picking apart opposing defense after opposing defense. In his last outing, the senior completed 18 of 19 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown in his team's 35-15 win over Pell City.
QB Brandon Cox
After attending both a team passing camp and a senior camp at Auburn this summer, it's a safe bet that Cox is very interested in the Tigers. "Right now Auburn, LSU and North Carolina State are my top three," he says. "At Auburn I like the coaches, particularly Coach (Noel) Mazzone. I really like him, he's real nice. Next year they'll only have Jason Campbell, who's going to be the only quarterback. That would give me a good chance of playing early."