SIERRA VISTA — Buena senior quarterback Jovoni Borbon is a four-year starter who has played 30 games with the Colts, the first 11 of which were defeats.
A quarterback with an 0-11 start defines survival. He remained the quarterback heading into the 12th game of his career because of the trust developed with coach Joe Thomas, who himself was 0-21 at Buena at that point.
Buena believed in Thomas. Thomas entrusted Borbon to prove to the Colts’ brass that both were the best candidates to help turn the program around.
“It taught me something going 0-10 (as a freshman),” Borbon said. “I feel like I understand what it’s like to lose. … It’s all learning experiences. You don’t want it to happen again. Take it and move on … next game, next week.”
Borbon — or is it Borbuena because of his imprint on the program? — experienced a four-game winning streak after that 0-11 start. The patience started to pay off. The trust was warranted.
The Colts are 13-9 with the captain at quarterback in the last three seasons. They are 2-1 this season heading into Friday’s showdown (7 p.m.) at Desert View, a fellow 5A team that is also 2-1.
When practice broke on Wednesday night, Borbon stood in the middle of his teammates barking directions as if he was the coach. Make no mistake, he is a coach. Thomas’ belief in Borbon extends to allowing him to call his own plays. Many college coaches and even some in the NFL do not give their quarterback that kind of freedom.
“In our region, probably every team we play, he probably has the most varsity experience of any quarterback,” Thomas said. ” I talk to a lot of coaches and they say, ‘He’s still there?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s still there.’
“I let him call a lot of plays. He’ll get the first play of the game … Sometimes I’ll just say, ‘Hey, call the play.’ If he’s in a rhythm, I let him call the play. He trusts what he sees out there, so being with him four years, I make sure that I put him in situations where he knows he’s earned his right to call a play every now and then.”
The plays Borbon calls, with a balanced mixture of the pass and run, has helped him amass 4,552 passing yards and 644 rushing yards in his career. He has thrown 36 touchdown passes and ran for six more.
Borbon, who plays bigger than his 5-foot-10 and 185-pound frame, threw only four passes in the 42-7 win at Empire last week, but he completed three of them for 113 yards with two touchdowns. He ran the ball only six times but gained 105 yards with two more touchdowns.
He has connected with 10 different receivers in his 25 completions in 52 attempts this year. Sophomore Keyon Taylor (eight receptions for 227 yards) and first-year varsity player Kemish Riley (six catches for 185 yards) have emerged as two of the best receivers in Southern Arizona because of Borbon’s play.
“Sometimes I get ahead of myself, thinking I know more than the coaches,” said Borbon when asked if he is preparing himself for a coaching career. “I love the game, so anything involving football I’m down for it.”
Whittier College has offered him a scholarship and NAU has expressed interest in him at another position (after playing only on offense last year he has played in the secondary some this season). When asked what he can take to the next level from his experience with Thomas, Borbon said, “Life skills, accountability, commitment, teamwork … being able to show up every day.”
Borbon is not immune to coachable moments despite his coach-on-the-field status.
He accidentally slept in and missed what Thomas calls “Zero-Hour Weights” before school on Wednesday, prompting the coach to send 10 text messages to him asking him why he was not there.
“Accountability, commitment, teamwork,” is what Thomas said he stressed to him in those text messages.
“If I stay on him and challenge him, he’ll do what he has to do,” Thomas said. “He likes to get coached up. Even though he’s making plays for us, I still hold him accountable.”
That accountability never was delegated to another quarterback despite an 0-11 start in his career. It won’t end now with his inexplicable absence from “Zero-Hour Weights.” As his career shows, Borbon will become stronger from the experience.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.