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Dream Come True

MY TURN: Titan senior Connor Short, who was recently named starting quarterback, can beat opponents with his arm as well as his feet. Photos by Scott Daves, Terry Fouché and Daryl Chan

He has waited patiently for the moment that will soon be upon us and barring unfortunate circumstances, San Marino High School senior Connor Short next Friday night will take his first snap as starting varsity quarterback when the Titans travel to Charter Oak for the 2019 season opener.

Oh he’s started plenty of games in the past, but last week Short was given the news many a youngster (he’s still five months shy of his 18th birthday) dreams of receiving when head Coach Justin Mesa told the lanky, 6’2” right hander that he is “the man.”

Mesa told The Tribune that naming a starting quarterback is key to the long-term success of the team as well as those who have battled for the signal-caller’s duties.

“Especially in the quarterback position, not naming a starter actually keeps everyone from moving forward,” Mesa said. “It allows the starter to develop and also lets the others know what they need to work on. I think we will all benefit.”

Short’s quarterbacking career dates back to his experience in the San Marino Community Athletics Association (SMCAA) and continued his freshman year, when he was named offensive player of the year as the Titans finished the campaign with a 7-3 mark. He had similar success—another 7-3 record—as a sophomore for the Titans’ junior varsity squad, dressed for every varsity contest and even experienced substantial playing time in relief of Blake Cabot, scoring two touchdowns in mop-up duty.

“It was real nice,” Short recalled. “Coach Hobbie would let me run it around a little bit.”

Short was backing up then-senior Kade Wentz last fall when Wentz suffered a shoulder injury on the questionable playing surface at Bell Gardens. Short started the next five games for the Titans, compiling a 4-0-1 record before handing the ball back to Wentz. Even in limited duty, Short passed for 601 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for another 422 yards—the third-highest total on the team—and five more scores.

But one of the lingering moments provided by Short last season had more to do with intangibles than statistics. When the Titans traveled to Monrovia and defeated the Wildcats for the Rio Hondo League championship with Wentz back at the quarterback spot, Short was the first to congratulate his erstwhile rival, the two sharing an enthusiastic high five.

“Kade is a really great guy,” Short said at the time. “It’s good to be competitive and it’s good to have that competitive nature when we are looking at a certain situation or a certain play, but that’s the end of it.”

In retrospect, Short said he wasn’t upset when Hobbie inserted Wentz into the starting lineup even though Short had not suffered a loss as his replacement.

“I was happy that we did well, but it was still Kade’s spot and I just wanted him to get better,” Short remembers. He said that now-retired head Coach Mike Hobbie “didn’t baby me at all.”

“[Hobbie] just said ‘Short, get in there,’” Connor recalled. “I was asked to run the same plays as Kade. There was no change in the game plan.”

Things are a little different this season as it’s Short’s position to lose, in Mesa’s parlance.

“I have wanted to be the senior varsity starting quarterback since I was playing in SMCAA,” he said. “I am very happy about this.”

So, apparently, is Mesa.

“Connor is really eager,” the rookie head coach said. “He has bought in and done everything we have asked of him. Connor is one of those guys you want as a senior to lead the program moving forward. He is a student of the game. There are still some improvements to be made, but Connor knows where the ball is supposed to go. I told him it’s his job to lose, but there is always the chance of someone else.”

The Titans are particularly deep at the quarterback position with experienced junior Andy Sutherland and hard-working sophomore Nico Mavridis nipping at Short’s heels.

After three years under quarterback-whisperer Hobbie, Short has high praise for Mesa, who most recently served as director of recruiting at the University of Wyoming.

“I really like Coach Mesa,” Short said. “I liked him from the start but I like him even more as we move on. He is knowledgeable and has a great attitude. He pushes us hard but is also very encouraging at the same time.”

Short is also an accomplished baseball player, coming off a season where he started at third base and played a little, yes, shortstop, for the Titans. The son of Melissa and Matt Short, Connor is joined on campus and in the football locker room by his younger brother Riley, a freshman, who is also on the quarterbacking depth chart at SMHS. Though graduation is months away, Connor said he wants to go to college where he can “stay warm.”

One of the toughest pre-Rio Hondo League schedules in the school’s history will try to put Short on the hot seat, but Connor is still his cool self.

“I am really excited,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, but I think we can figure it out.”

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