By Ray Hamill — Cruz Montana has been busy this spring preparing for the next great chapter in his life.
The Eureka senior will make the move after graduation to play football at Lewis and Clark University in Portland, and he’s not wasting any time getting ready.
“I started watching Portlandia,” he joked on Friday afternoon, after signing a letter of intent to play for the Pioneers.
The truth is Montana has been preparing for this move since the day he first picked up a football and began throwing it around.
The son of a coach and the product of a football family, he was destined to play the game and has not disappointed.
In two years as a starter for the Loggers, he helped his team to back-to-back perfect regular seasons and an overall record of 23-2.
He famously played most of the state semifinal this past fall with a broken jaw, leading the Loggers back from a two-touchdown deficit before they barely lost the game.
It was the stuff of legend.
More importantly, Montana has been fun to watch, and he thrilled Eureka fans as a starter, finishing his career with 4,382 yards passing and 45 passing touchdowns, and just seven interceptions.
“This guy has been incredible to coach,” Eureka head coach Jason White told the gathering of friends at the Montana house in Eureka for the signing.
An emotional Montana, who was also celebrating his 18th birthday at the signing, thanked his friends and coaches for being a part of the occasion and paid tribute to his teammates.
“I was born to a football coach,” he said. “But there’s so much more to life than just football, and all you guys have contributed to me.”
He added that, “What I’m going to remember most about high school football is the relationships I had with my teammates. My best friends are all from football.”
Ready to blow up
Montana will join a Lewis and Clark program that has struggled in recent years, winning just two games in each of the past two seasons after going winless the previous two.
He feels, however, that the team is about to turn the corner, with a new offensive coordinator, Joe Bushman, bringing a new brand of football to the team.
Bushman led Clackamas High to a 6A Oregon state championship in 2017, the state’s top level of the high school game, and will run a similar type of offense to the one Montana flourished under at Eureka.
“I think they’re building,” the Eureka senior said. “I went to a workout with the team (when I visited), and watched practice with the team, and I could just feel they believe in themselves.”
He compared it to how he felt with the Loggers a couple of years back when they were coming off a few years of struggles.
“That’s when we blew up, and Lewis and Clark is about to blow up,” he said.
His high school head coach backed the sentiment.
“A good quarterback can make a big difference,” White said.
Montana added he’s looking forward to moving to Portland, although he admitted it will be different.
“I’ve been a mama’s boy my whole life,” he said with a laugh, adding that “It seems like an awesome place to be and I think I’ll fit in there.”
White believes it will be a good fit for both the player and the person.
“He made a great decision in going where he feels it’s the proper place for him culture wise,” the coach said. “And a great fit academically.”
The senior star, who also played basketball for the Loggers, says he’s undecided yet on a major.
Lewis and Clark is a small private liberal arts NCAA Division-III college.