Cruz Montana, one of the most successful quarterbacks in the history of Eureka High football and the only to lead the program to a state playoff game, signed a letter of commitment to play football at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., during a ceremony at his home in Eureka, Friday afternoon.
“I’m really excited to be a part of the culture and team at Lewis and Clark,” Montana said of his decision. “I visited a lot of schools, some that had more wins and success than (Lewis and Clark) over the last few years, but something just stood out about the school and team. I feel like it’s the place I belong. I have a passion for building up a program, I think that’s what I helped to do at Eureka High and it’s what I want to do there — I want to be that dude.”
Montana will join a Lewis and Clark team which posted a 2-7 record in 2018 and has won just four games since the start of the 2014 season — including three straight winless seasons from 2014 through the 2016 season — and is 4-41 in its last 45 outings. Lewis and Clark is a NCAA Division-III program and a member of the Northwest Conference.
“We are very excited about (Montana) coming our way,” Lewis and Clark’s head coach Jay Locey said of his future quarterback. “He has incredible leadership abilities to go along with his skills as a quarterback. He was able to come up here for a visit and I think he caught the vision of what we are trying to build here. He’s coming here to win a championship.”
Eureka’s head football coach Jason White said his former quarterback is undaunted by the prospect of being an integral piece of a rebuilding program. During his two years as starting quarterback for Eureka, Montana recorded 23 wins — equal to the 23 wins the team totaled in the previous four seasons before Montana assumed the role of starter.
“There’s something to be said about turning around a program and being one of the guys who does it,” White said. “You can be the guy who plays for the top school, or one of the guys who beats the top school — and that’s (Montana’s) approach.”
White said Montana’s improvement as an athlete over his time with Eureka and his ability to turn his weaknesses into strengths sits, in his mind, as his former quarterback’s best qualities.
The two-year varsity starter led Eureka to back-to-back Big 5 Conference championships, consecutive North Coast Section Division-III playoff appearances and a California Interscholastic Federation state playoff game last season.
During his junior and senior seasons Montana accumulated 4,249 passing yards, 44 passing touchdowns to just six interceptions and seven rushing touchdowns.
During his two years as a starter Montana guided Eureka to a 23-2 overall record, his only losses coming in the second round of the 2017 NCS playoffs and to 2018’s eventual Division 3-AA state champion, Menlo-Atherton, in the semifinal round of the state playoffs — a game which the quarterback recalls as one of his favorite moments of his high school career.
“I’ll always remember the Menlo-Atherton game — not that we lost, but how hard we fought. We were outmatched, for sure, but we never gave up. Even when times were the toughest, we never turned on each other.”
When asked what he, and his program, will miss most about Montana, White said, “Leadership, that’s my immediate thought. He’s the first or second guy out to practice and he’s never negative and always supportive of his teammates. He’s the whole package.”