Two weeks ago, while sitting in the stands after playing in a junior varsity game, Robby Stevenson got the call for which he seemed destined.
The grandson of legendary Woodlake High coach Leo Robinson was needed to step in as the Tigers’ starting varsity quarterback.
As a 14-year-old freshman.
And following in the signal-caller footsteps of uncles Ron and Randy Robinson, who helped Robby’s grandfather win a Central Section-record 290 games in his 41 seasons at Woodlake.
“It’s hard to get sophomores to come up and play varsity because they are so timid and scared,” Tigers coach Jose Del Rio said. “But Robby had a big ol’ smile on his face when I asked him to come up. He was like, ‘OK coach, let’s go.’ ”
Stevenson will make his varsity debut Friday when Woodlake (3-2) hosts Strathmore (2-3) in an East Sequoia League opener, but won’t be the only freshman quarterback in action in eastern Tulare County.
Just 10 miles down the road at rival Exeter, fellow frosh Alec Trujillo, 14, has taken over as the Monarchs’ quarterback and is running with the job, having passed for 567 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two starts – victories over Mission Oak (41-24) and Wasco (38-7).
“The game is not too big for him,” Exeter coach Chris Frankland said. “I’ve coached a lot of quarterbacks over the years and if a read says do something seven times in a row, many will get bored and won’t do it.
“Alec understands we’re going to take a shot here, and there is a reason why. And that we’re going to run the ball, and there is a reason for it. He understands the quarterback position so well it allows him to play it without all the other stuff getting in his head that gets to other kids.”
Stevenson and Trujillo received their opportunities after injuries to senior starters.
At Woodlake, third-year quarterback Eric Schwarz suffered a broken collarbone during the Tigers’ 47-12 victory over Orosi on Sept. 25. He is expected to miss at least the rest of the regular season.
The game hadn’t even ended yet when Del Rio decided he would turn to Stevenson, a 6-foot, 180-pounder with a strong arm and football smarts beyond his years.
And Del Rio isn’t worried about the pressure associated with Stevenson living up to the family name.
“I spoke to him about it one time,” Del Rio said. “He said: ‘You don’t have to tell me coach, I already know. I understand what I have to live up to. I will do whatever it takes and work as hard as it takes.’
“He is very coachable. You can tell he is related to Robinson.”
At Exeter, Trujillo spent the summer splitting reps with Farmersville transfer Andrew Williamson.
Frankland and his staff were close to giving Trujillo the job to start the season. They instead decided to let Trujillo get acclimated to high school football at the JV level while monitoring his progress, knowing also that Williamson could transition to other positions offensively and play an even bigger role defensively if a switch needed to be made.
When Williamson suffered a concussion during a 21-0 win over Madera South on Sept. 18, Frankland turned to Trujillo, who delivered 233 yards and two touchdowns in his first start Sept. 25 against Mission Oak. The 5-10, 155-pounder followed that with 334 yards and five touchdowns against Wasco.
He makes his third start Friday as Exeter (5-1) hosts Selma (5-1) to open Central Sequoia League play. Williamson, who has missed the past two games, will be a game-time decision.
But whether Williamson returns this week or Oct. 16 against Central Valley Christian, the job belongs to Trujillo.
“There is no question he’s talented, a gifted athlete and quarterback,” Frankland said. “When Andrew went down, the decision was made for us. There was no question. He throws a really good ball, he makes the right throws and he’s able to put the ball where it needs to be. He’s an exciting player.”