California dreamin takes hold
Portland Christian QB heads south with a Division I goal
Quarterback Jake Buchanan isn't afraid to jump into situations with both feet. Such confidence has led him to Saddleback Junior College, where he will pursue an NCAA Division I football scholarship.
Buchanan, a recent graduate of Portland Christian High in Northeast Portland, headed to Mission Viejo, Calif., last week.
'It's a big move for me, but I think I'm ready for it,' says Buchanan, who threw for more than 4,000 yards in three seasons at Portland Christian, a school with about 250 students. 'I'm not in a hurry. If it takes three years to get where I want, then that's OK with me.'
Buchanan's biggest asset is his height, 6-5, which allows him to see over most defensive linemen. He simply needs to add strength, conditioning and seasoning with the Gauchos, who were 9-2 last year.
'He has the raw talent, the physical tools,' says Portland Christian coach Andrew Jannsen. 'I won't say he's a Division I player, but he can be.'
Buchanan will live with relatives near the Pacific Ocean as he attends school and works out with Saddleback. He intends to grayshirt, which means he won't officially begin his athletic career until next year.
'I know I need to get stronger and faster to be able to play, but there really isn't any pressure on me,' he says. 'And it's not going to be too expensive, so that's in my favor, too.'
Small school standout
Buchanan started three games as a sophomore but suffered a broken thumb and then had injury troubles in his junior year, too. He separated his sternum before the season while cliff diving into the Clackamas River. He guided the Royals to a playoff berth in 2001, but the injury limited his mobility.
Last fall, the Royals were 7-2 and missed the state playoffs by one game.
Buchanan finished with 4,579 career yards passing and 52 touchdowns, including 21 in his junior year, when he threw to speedy receivers Ryan Hernandez and Jesse Stratos, both of whom now play at Willamette University.
Private colleges in Oregon chased Buchanan, but he opted for the JC route, especially after touring five schools in early spring. Buchanan worked out at several colleges, including Compton, and was excited by the level of play, especially the speed of the receivers.
'I could hit the receivers, but they were always having to reach back to catch the ball,' he says. 'That took a little getting used to, just how fast those guys are. But I loved it. You could really see the desire and dedication those guys have for the game. That really impressed me.'
Buchanan didn't work out with Saddleback's players, but the mere interest of other schools allowed him entry to that program. He chose Saddleback because it's close to where his aunt lives. He's rooming with her family.
'It would be great if he can improve and get playing time there,' Jannsen says. 'That would show the guys at our level that they can go off to a higher level if they have the desire.'
PT at a JC is OK
Playing for a junior college team in California is a significant step for aspiring football players. Dozens of JC players depart their school for Division I programs every year. Saddleback's tight end last season, Jon Lyon, headed for the University of Washington in January.
At rival Palomar, 23 players from last year's team are going to four-year schools, including 16 to Division I or I-AA schools. Linebacker Andrew Dorsey is at Portland State from that group, and the Vikings have at least a dozen other players with JC experience.
J.J. Johnson of Central Catholic is headed for Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., and Lincoln grad Sean Sosnovec plans to return for his sophomore season at DeAnza JC in Cupertino, Calif.
Buchanan spent much of the early summer working out daily in Portland Christian's weight room, trying to add muscle to his 195-pound frame. He will return to Oregon in August to play in the annual East-West Shrine Bowl in Baker City.
'Playing at Class 2A was fun, but there were only so many guys who were really dedicated to improvement,' he says. 'That's not the case at junior colleges. Everyone wants to get better, get to the next level. They're really going to push me, and that's what I'm looking for.'