Davis High football coach Tim Garcia says he’s been coaching Gregori quarterback Bobby Avina since he was in diapers.
He’s exaggerating, of course, but only slightly. Avina has turned to Garcia for tutelage since he was 6, placing his football dreams in the hands of a local legend. Even then, Garcia recognized Avina’s potential. He was blessed with a strong right arm, good feet and a passion for the sport and the position.
The building blocks were in place.
“He’s always been a kid who has worked really, really hard,” said Garcia, whose legacy is protected in two collegiate Halls of Fame: Modesto Junior College and the University of Mary.
“He’s always going the extra mile, whether it’s staying longer, working harder or asking all the right questions. It was just a matter of time before he was at the level he’s at now.”
Today, Avina ranks among the top passers in the Stanislaus District and he’s engineered the best start in program history. Gregori is 7-0 and ranked No. 5 in the large-school poll.
The Jaguars are one of four undefeated teams in the city limits, including Central Catholic (6-0), Downey (8-0) and Big Valley Christian (7-0). The district’s other unbeatens are Los Banos (7-0) and small-school No. 1 Orestimba (7-0).
“We’ve worked hard for this,” Avina said. “We’ve been working together for a long time. This year’s team, we’re a whole different team than we’ve been before. We have a common goal of getting it done this year.”
Gregori will look to keep its streak alive on Friday against Davis as student meets teacher under the lights at Don Lanphear Stadium. Garcia insists it won’t be awkward.
“When he got to seventh or eighth grade, people said ‘You have to stop working with him. You have to stop working with him,’ ” Garcia said. “For me, coaching is all about building relationships with the kids and helping them become young men and even better dads someday. Football is a tool to help fulfill those things.
“Never once in my mind did I think I had to stop coaching him. I want to see him be successful. I want to see all kids who put in as much time as him be successful.”
Avina has been a driving force in the Jaguars’ pursuit of a Modesto Metro Conference championship.
Most of his junior season was wiped away because of a torn ligament and separation in his throwing shoulder. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Avina appeared in just five games.
“This season has been very important to me,” he said. “Only being able to play in five games ... that took a toll on me. I knew I had to make a name for myself this season and put Gregori on the map. I had to be a different player.”
In his absence, the Jaguars were good, but not great. Gregori finished with seven wins and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. This season, Gregori seemingly has taken the next step. With the addition of assistant coach Scott Vincent, a QB guru in his own right, and the return of Avina, the Jaguars have moved away from the Wing-T.
“It’s good to see him have the success after the adversity he faced with the injuries,” Garcia said. “He persevered and had a good summer. Now he’s enjoying the fruits of his labor.”
Avina has been remarkably efficient. He has the highest completion percentage among the top 10 passers in the Sac-Joaquin Section. He is completing 72.4 percent of his passes (105 for 145) with 20 touchdowns against two interceptions.
His 1,670 yards rank ninth in the section and third in the district, trailing only Downey junior Bryce Peterson (2,161 yards) and Patterson senior Gabe Sanchez (1,702).
“At that position, I’m pretty detailed oriented,” Garcia said. “So it’s never picture perfect. The thing that Bobby can do is anticipate throwing to spots. We don’t throw to receivers. We throw to spots. He’s always had the ability to anticipate when receivers will come open. That’s one the strongest points about his game.”
Garcia has worked with young quarterbacks from Manteca to Newman, and he’s developed two at Davis: senior Ryan Viodes, who set the single-game passing mark earlier in the season; and senior Xavier Rodriguez, who has supplanted Viodes in recent weeks. However, the standard will command the pocket on the opposite sideline.
“From a quarterback perspective, he’s the type of kid you want leading the team,” Garcia said. “He’s always been able to throw the football. It was just a matter of his arm strength and maturity continuing to develop and blossom.
“He has always had good feet and we started to teach him how to read defenses early. We were able to do those things because he was like a sponge. He was always calling and asking for extra work.”
Not this week.
No hard feelings, coach.
“It’s a competition,” Avina said. “I’m going to use everything he’s taught me against him on Friday.”