A authorized separation, a 2,300-mile transfer and enjoying HS soccer within the time of coronavirus
VALDOSTA, Ga. — On most mornings in early August, Jake Garcia would get up within the furnished residence he shares along with his dad, Randy, at 5 a.m., have breakfast after which drive over to Valdosta Excessive Faculty for a 5:45 a.m. observe.Jake and his dad needed to share a rental automotive, so that they did just about the whole lot collectively. In the meantime, Jake’s mom, Yvonne, was greater than 2,300 miles away within the household’s dwelling in Whittier, California.That is the place Jake lived till about 5 weeks in the past, when the California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing physique for highschool sports activities, introduced that soccer season can be delayed till a minimum of December due to the coronavirus pandemic, successfully ending Garcia’s senior season earlier than it began.Enter Rush Propst, the controversial seven-time state champion coach and former star of the MTV actuality present “Two-A-Days.” Now at Georgia powerhouse Valdosta Excessive, Propst had a spot for Garcia, a USC QB commit and the No. 18 participant within the ESPN 300.There was just one catch.1 RelatedFor a switch pupil to be instantly eligible below Georgia Excessive Faculty Affiliation guidelines, she or he should make a “bona fide transfer,” by which the “pupil moved concurrently with the whole parental unit or individuals he/she resided with on the former faculty, and the scholar and father or mother(s) or individuals residing with the scholar dwell within the service space of the brand new faculty.”Shifting to Georgia wasn’t an issue for Randy, who retired in 2012 after working for 32 years with the Los Angeles Police Division. Yvonne, who works as an administrative assistant, needed to stay in California for her job. For Jake to be eligible for one season at Valdosta Excessive, Randy and Yvonne legally separated to satisfy the Georgia residency guidelines. In accordance with courtroom information, Randy and Yvonne dissolved their marriage on Aug. 20. They plan to get again collectively as soon as Jake’s season at Valdosta Excessive ends.”The necessities [are] a full household transfer, in order that and, clearly, grades and that sort of factor,” Randy mentioned. “So at this level, we acquired a authorized separation. We’re proper down the rules so far as being eligible to play.”Earlier this month, Yvonne arrived in Valdosta for the primary time on the day of the Wildcats’ season opener. She returned to California on Sunday and hopes to come back again in October and November and doubtlessly once more in December for the state playoffs.”It has been arduous, but it surely’s value it,” she mentioned. “It is a sacrifice and it is value it.”Randy and Yvonne are conscious that others would possibly criticize their resolution to legally separate, however they are saying it is one thing they needed to do to make sure their son might play his senior 12 months.And whereas others might not have gone to fairly the identical lengths, the Garcias aren’t alone in shifting out of state to permit their kids to play this fall. Michigan commit J.J. McCarthy, the No. 23 recruit within the ESPN 300, left his faculty in Illinois to play at IMG Academy in Florida this fall. The No. 32 prospect within the 2022 class, QB Braden Davis, can be enjoying at a faculty in Florida after Delaware postponed soccer. And a minimum of three different quarterbacks from California went out of state to play this fall.Brandon Vasquez, a slot receiver from La Habra Excessive and a detailed good friend of Garcia’s, moved to Valdosta earlier this month and likewise deliberate to play for the Wildcats this season.A spokesman for the Georgia Excessive Faculty Affiliation instructed ESPN this week that greater than 80 switch waivers had been accredited for out-of-state college students, not all particularly for soccer.”It is as soon as in a lifetime,” Randy mentioned. “He is acquired one senior 12 months. He needs to play, it is vital for him. It was a no brainer for us. And, sadly, there’s a number of mother and father that may’t [move]. It is actually unhappy. There’s a number of studs in a number of these states which might be simply going to take a seat out. They are not going to play, and it is simply not honest.”Virtually as quickly because the CIF made its resolution to postpone fall sports activities, the Garcias began searching for different choices.”He was actually disillusioned, like all of us have been,” Randy mentioned. “He had talked about enjoying and even going out of state. And it was simply one thing that [I said], ‘OK, OK. Yeah we’ll try this. We’ll try this. We’ll take a look at it.'”A university coach talked about Valdosta Excessive and Propst.Valdosta Excessive, which has gained 24 state titles and 6 legendary nationwide championships, was ranked No. 1 in Class 6A by The Atlanta Journal-Structure this season — even earlier than it added Garcia.And the 62-year-old Propst is used to being within the highlight and being closely scrutinized. After profitable 5 state championships at Hoover Excessive in Alabama, Propst introduced his resignation in October 2007, efficient on the finish of the season, after an investigation alleged improprieties in his program and concluded that he had quietly supported a second household in one other city. Propst, who was married with kids on the time, finally divorced his spouse and married the lady with whom he shared his secret life.After leaving Hoover, Propst gained two extra state championships in 11 seasons at Colquitt County Excessive in Moultrie, Georgia. In March 2019, he was fired after a faculty board investigation alleged he dedicated ethics violations. In an interview with ESPN, Propst denied the allegations.”One of many school coaches had talked about it to [Jake], that they have been a big-time program and gave us some historical past, and I keep in mind watching them on TV,” Randy mentioned. “So we regarded into it. We knew that their quarterback [Tate Rodemaker] had graduated and he is over at Florida State now.”Rush Propst has coached seven groups to state highschool championships. Marcy ReaginYvonne thought transferring would possibly imply Jake would play his senior season at a highschool in Arizona or Nevada — not all the best way throughout the nation.”Once I heard about Georgia, I simply thought, ‘Yeah, do it. No matter it takes,'” Yvonne mentioned. “I do know Randy was shocked as a result of I am afraid to be alone, and even Jake was shocked. They each mentioned, ‘Nicely, we won’t depart you.’ And I mentioned, ‘Yeah, you possibly can. Do it. No matter it takes.’ I would like him to be in a great program. I needed him to have an actual robust senior season.”In early August, Jake and Randy visited Valdosta Excessive, toured the campus and met with faculty officers. They discovered a spot to dwell about 10 minutes from campus. After returning dwelling to pack their luggage, Jake and Randy have been again in Valdosta about 4 days later.”It was fast,” Jake mentioned. “Very, very fast. So issues occurred they usually occurred throughout the blink of an eye fixed. I did not get to say bye to all people I needed to, however all people understands they usually’re tremendous blissful for me.”Randy and Yvonne mentioned there have been preliminary considerations about Jake enjoying in Georgia, which has ranked excessive amongst states with probably the most COVID-19 circumstances. Randy mentioned his father, Raymond Garcia, died at age 93 on July 10 after contracting COVID-19, and two different family members examined constructive for the virus however did not have many signs.”There’s at all times a priority,” Randy mentioned. “Sure, I misplaced my father. He was 93 years outdated. He was in ok well being to in all probability dwell one other couple of years, three years, I do not know. However sure, he caught the [coronavirus], and he handed away.”I am not going to get caught up in all of the political stuff that is happening, and we’ll dwell life. That is the best way it’s. And do it with warning. We’ll be on the recreation, and I am hoping all people has a masks on.”Masks have been required at Valdosta Excessive’s Sept. Four opener at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, which has a capability of greater than 11,000, after the town council voted Aug. 26 to mandate individuals sporting a masks on metropolis property or at companies that select to require them. About 6,000 individuals attended the opener, and plenty of have been sporting masks within the stands.”Similar to when Randy was working as a police officer, simply put him in God’s fingers,” Yvonne mentioned. “I simply belief that God goes to maintain my household. Jake is doing what he [loves]; he lives and breathes soccer. Whereas we’re right here, we’re sporting masks and Jake is sporting a masks. They are not sporting masks once they’re enjoying soccer, however hopefully all the youngsters are being cautious they usually’re following rules and all that. So I am simply praying that we’re all protected.”Valdosta’s second scheduled recreation at Tift County Excessive was canceled on Friday after 4 opposing gamers and one coach examined constructive for COVID-19. Tift County coach Ashley Anders was hospitalized final week after testing constructive for COVID-19 and influenza, the college system mentioned in a Fb publish.Valdosta is scheduled to play Bainbridge Excessive at dwelling on Friday evening.Going to extremes to assist Jake succeed athletically is nothing new for the Garcias.He spent his freshman season at Lengthy Seaside Poly Excessive, the place he sat behind present Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. After Lengthy Seaside Poly coach Antonio Pierce, the previous NFL linebacker, left to hitch Herm Edwards’ workers at Arizona State in December 2017, Jake transferred to Narbonne Excessive in Los Angeles. Jake sat out the primary 5 video games of his sophomore season in 2018 below switch guidelines, after which his junior season was lower quick when Narbonne was banned from the playoffs in 2019 and 2020 for alleged educational misconduct. He transferred to La Habra Excessive and by no means performed in a recreation.Earlier than he even entered highschool, the Garcias agreed to have Jake repeat the eighth grade so he might develop bodily and mentally.QB Jake Garcia, ranked because the No. 18 total prospect within the ESPN 300, is dedicated to USC. Garcia familyIn September 2019, Jake verbally dedicated to play for USC, and he plans to enroll there in January. He needed another season of highschool soccer — even when it meant shifting throughout the nation to do it.”I have never had a full season of soccer as a quarterback but, so I feel it is big for me, simply from a aggressive standpoint,” Jake mentioned. “I am a competitor and I need to play soccer. I can truthfully simply go to varsity proper now. Simply sit out my senior 12 months, simply work arduous and go to varsity, however that is not me. I need to win. So I feel that is one of the best alternative for me. That is what my household agrees with, so we’re all-in.”Jake mentioned USC coach Clay Helton supported his resolution to switch to Valdosta, and he nonetheless plans to enroll at USC in January. However Jake shifting to a recruiting hotbed within the coronary heart of ACC and SEC nation would possibly make the Trojans somewhat extra anxious.”Jake’s dedicated to SC and he is loyal to SC,” Randy mentioned. “However issues can change there too. There’s too many shifting elements. … You have simply acquired to maintain your choices open, and he’s, with the dedication nonetheless to SC.”Propst mentioned a handful of schools within the Southeast have already reached out to him about whether or not Jake can be prepared to alter his thoughts. It helps USC that the NCAA has banned recruiting visits from coaches through the pandemic.”What do you suppose? I imply, I feel that was a part of the transfer too, considerably,” Propst mentioned. “With out naming faculties, I can identify three which might be going to be closely concerned, if not 4 closely concerned in making an attempt to persuade him to alter his dedication. They usually’re all fairly near right here. So possibly 5, possibly 5 faculties proper now that I do know are sporting me out, calling me. They’re going to come once they can come.”Jake’s rust and unfamiliarity with Valdosta Excessive’s offense confirmed within the first half of the season opener in opposition to Warner Robins Excessive on Sept. 4, when he threw an interception and misplaced two fumbles.As soon as the Georgia Excessive Faculty Affiliation accredited Jake’s switch, he needed to wait 10 days to observe with the crew throughout a state-mandated acclimation interval. It did not take Propst or his teammates lengthy to determine that he was completely different.”There’s not a throw he cannot make,” Propst mentioned. “The wow issue was there from day one. Our three receivers began going, ‘Wow,’ and so it did not take lengthy. In that first scrimmage, in regards to the third ball, you can hear the stands. We had in all probability 300 or 400 individuals right here watching observe and the scrimmage, and folks have been excited and the youngsters began gravitating to him. He is a natural-born chief.”Jake proved that within the second half, regardless of having solely participated in 9 practices and realizing about 30% of Propst’s offense.QB Jake Garcia threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns in his debut at Valdosta Excessive Faculty. Marcy ReaginHe bounced again to throw for 339 yards with two touchdowns, together with a 55-yarder to Aalah Brown and a two-point conversion that tied the rating at 25. The Wildcats gained 28-25 on Angel Martinez’s 41-yard area purpose with 25 seconds to go.”Georgia soccer is loopy,” Jake mentioned. “I would like this earlier than school.”No matter what occurs subsequent, Jake says he’s grateful for an opportunity to play another season in highschool.”It is a blessing,” Jake mentioned. “I could not ask for any higher mother and father. I really feel like my mother and father, they achieve this a lot for me. I am an solely baby, so if I had brothers and sisters, I do not know if this might be capable of occur, however I simply have all the trouble put into me. It is a blessing. I really like my mother and father a lot. I thank them each day for it.”Randy is not second-guessing the sacrifices he and his spouse have made.”I imply, we do not need to be these mother and father that may have, might have, ought to have,” Randy mentioned. “I do not need Jake to be on the yard barbecue and be that uncle speaking about, ‘Nicely, I might have, might have, ought to have, if my mother and father did this or did that.’ If he is not going to possibly excel and succeed to his fullest potential, it will be due to him. Not as a result of we held him again or as a result of we weren’t capable of do one thing.”ESPN investigative producer Andy Lockett and ESPN researcher John Mastroberardino contributed to this story.