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Football: Quarterback to watch: Gahr's Corey Nielsen

September 24, 2008 | 11:30 am

USC-bound Matt Barkley of Santa Ana Mater Dei and UCLA-bound Richard Brehaut of Los Osos may be regarded as the top two senior quarterbacks in Southern California, but the best pound-for-pound passer in the Southland has to be Corey Nielsen of Cerritos Gahr.

Nielsen, who committed to Hawaii before the start of the season, is 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds with an NFL-quality arm. He has led Gahr’s no-huddle spread offense since his freshman season and has helped guide the Gladiators to a 2-1 start this season.

In Gahr’s 63-0 victory over crosstown rival Cerritos last Friday, Nielsen excited a near-full house at Rants Stadium with a six-touchdown effort, all in the first half.

Nielsen, the reigning state passing leader, finished 12 of 15 passing for 375 yards and five touchdowns, while also rushing for 18 yards and a score. For the season, Nielsen has completed 43 of 79 passes for 886 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

"The biggest drawback on Nielsen is his lack of height,” said Robert Brazille, a former personal quarterback coach who scouts for a national high school recruiting service. “But if you watch him play, he doesn’t play small. Nielsen has a great command of what’s happening on the field and shows great leadership skills.”

There’s no question that Nielsen’s passing numbers are boosted by Gahr’s quarterback-friendly passing offense, which features an outstanding group of receivers, led by Hawaii-bound slotback Deondre Powell and talented wideouts Sean Morris and Aaron Bradley.

That was evident against Cerritos when the Gladiators often turned short passes into long touchdowns. Powell finished with three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, while Morris had three catches for 67 yards and two scores and Bradley had a team-high four catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.

But to typecast Nielsen as system quarterback would be wrong.

In Gahr’s season-opening 33-30 win over Long Beach Milikan, Nielsen was 20 of 32 for 354 yards and five touchdowns and stepped in at crunch time with a late game-winning pass to Bradley.

Against Cerritos, Nielsen displayed a great feel in the pocket and threw with accuracy; any questions about his arm strength were answered when he completed a deep sideline pass from the opposite end of the field in the first half.

Gahr will host Lakewood Artesia on Friday.

--Lonnie White