SportStars Magazine

Unhidden Gem

Rancho Cotate QB Jake Simmons Is Posting Big Time Statistics Despite Little Scouting Fanfare •

Story by HAROLD ABEND | Photos by BERRY EVANS III

Some players are simply destined to fly under the radar.

Despite putting up the kind of stats often seen up in the stratosphere, Rancho Cotate High-Rohnert Park quarterback Jake Simmons seems to be one of those guys.

“Jake is phenomenal,” Cougars coach Gehrig Hotaling said. “If I had to build a team in the Bay Area, Jake Simmons would be my first pick.”

Even with a junior season that ended with 4,802 combined passing and rushing yards, 56 touchdowns and a Cal-Hi Sports All-State selection — and leading Rancho Cotate to a 5-0 start to 2017 with a 146.2 quarterback rating — he’s not the first pick of any notable college program.

Last year, Simmons sent retiring coach Ed Conroy out with career victory No. 197 after two wins in the North Coast Section Division III playoffs, but the run ended when the Cougars fell 37-34 in the NCS semis to eventual Div. III champ and CIF Div. 5-AA State Bowl-winners Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland.

Conroy didn’t even need to see Simmons play football to recognize the kid’s potential. He first noticed Simmons’ arm on a baseball diamond while watching him pitch as a freshman. However, the longtime coach was pretty certain the Simmons’ heart was in baseball.

Indeed, Simmons was considering quitting football to focus on baseball and basketball. As a kid in Pop Warner, his size had him playing lineman and he was done with that.

Simmons told Conroy he still had interest in football — but only if he had a chance to play quarterback. And that was that.

“It took a little time for him to settle into football, but once he did, he set all the JV passing records,” Conroy said. “He has a lot of natural ability and he’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever seen.”

It helps to have athletic pedigree, too. His father, Ross Simmons, played football at Montgomery-Santa Rosa and then went to Santa Rosa Junior College and Oregon Tech. His mother, Gina, ran track at the old Ursuline-Santa Rosa before it merged with Cardinal Newman. His older brother, Ross Jr., graduated from Analy-Sebastopol last year after catching 23 touchdown passes over his last two seasons. He now plays for Santa Rosa Junior College.

While the scouting radar may not be following Jake’s path, he and the Cougars certainly aren’t going unnoticed in the North Coast Section. Not after a 5-0 start that includes a 33-28 road win over reigning NCS Div. II champ Campolindo-Moraga. Simmons threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the win. After five games, he’s passed for 1,626 yards and 19 TDs.

With the emergence of senior tailback Kobi Buckley, there’s less need for Simmons to be the rushing threat he was a year ago when he nearly reached 1,000 yards. Through his first five games of 2017, he’s rushed for 270 yards and eight touchdowns. “I’m definitely not afraid to run the ball, but I’m not typically a run-first quarterback. I like to air it out,” Simmons said. “I run when it’s mostly needed, like in the fourth quarter when I have to put the team on my back.”

Simmons takes off for a big gain during the Cougars’ 33-28 win over Campolindo on Sept. 15.

That may not be necessary until the teams’ regular season finale, a Nov. 4 showdown with Cardinal Newman which will most likely decide the North Bay League title.

In last year’s overtime loss to Cardinal Newman, both team’s scored on their first possession in overtime; first Cardinal Newman and then Rancho Cotate on a Simmons TD pass. Conroy had confidence enough in Simmons to go for the win, but the 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete and left Jake and returning teammates with a score to settle.

A win over Cardinal Newman would likely send an undefeated Rancho into the Div. III playoffs as a top-3 seed. Once there, the Cougars will be seeking their first section title since back-to-back 3A Redwood Empire crowns in 2001-02. But that will entail surviving one of the deepest fields in the section featuring O’Dowd, Cardinal Newman, Marin Catholic-Kentfield, Miramonte-Orinda and Acalanes-Lafayette. It will undoubtedly be a chance for Simmons to shine. “Jake can and is going to play somewhere (in college),” Conroy said.

Despite his numbers, the naysayers point to his lack of height (6-foot-1) and blazing speed as reasons he hasn’t gotten any top-notch Div. I offers. Sacramento State and Azusa Pacific have made offers as well as Glenville State in West Virginia.

“I’m absolutely shocked he’s not getting big-time looks and offers,” Hotaling said. “It’s crazy. You just watch him throw. His arm and accuracy is great and his vision is incredible. And the best thing is, as good a quarterback as he is, he’s an even a better young man.”

There is still a lot of football left this season and anything can happen, but right now Bay Area high school football fans better not sleep on Jake Simmons and Rancho Cotate.

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