In the Napa Valley they play The Big Game in November, the annual showdown between Napa High School and crosstown rival Vintage. The Kiwanis Club presents a thousand dollar check to the winner, with the loser receiving $500. They get to ring the KVON victory bell. A capacity crowd comes to Memorial Stadium, the Napa rooters throwing baby powder in the air to rile themselves up for the game. The Indians have retained the bell for 8 straight years, 25-15-2 overall after a 28-7 victory last fall.
A few years ago John Boyett starred in The Big Game, and before that, Mike Gibson, a guard for the Arizona Cardinals.
Left: Braden Eggert on his recruiting visit, a photo he posted on Twitter. He embraced the Oregon culture quickly.
For the last two years, one of the stalwarts for Napa has been Braden Eggert, a 6-7, 305-lb. offensive tackle who just moved in to his new room at the University of Oregon.
Marty James of the Napa Valley Register told the story that started two years ago. Indian coach Troy Mott was getting the team ready for a summer workout when a father and son strode up to him on the practice field, the son towering over anyone who played there since Gibson. The family had just moved over from Red Bluff. Coming home, since Bill Eggert had played guard at Napa back in the 1980s.
“I turned around and I saw him move and I saw him bend,” Mott recalled. “I thought ‘Oh my gosh, thank you Lord.’ I must have been living life correctly for this to drop on our doorstep.”
Two years later, Braden is a 3-star offensive tackle with an eye-popping upside. Gentle and a good student off the field, the all-league left tackle displays a nasty streak on the field, moving with shocking quickness for a big man, visibly stunning opponents as he knocks them flat, often two defenders on one play. Eggert doesn’t merely hit people he lays them out, blasts them backward, his head on a swivel as he looks for a second victim, all the way to the whistle, driving hapless linebackers halfway back to the bus.
The determination, the controlled meanness, is evident and effective. For the last two years Braden has worked with Gibson in the spring and summers, and it shows. He has quick feet for his size, the mobility to lead a play way upfield. In one defensive highlight he cuts off a tailback after a 40-yard run, the kind of motor that makes coaches, watching film, call another coach into the room.
Provided he stays diligent, Braden Eggert can one day write a Sunday ticket in football. He has the raw material scouts look for, size, agility, desire and intelligence.
Steve Greatwood, who’s been on a roll for the last 8 months, plucked him from Washington State after a November visit, seeing quickly that Napa product had the kind of foundation he liked, athletically and academically, coming from a stable home with loving parents, Bill and his wife Michele.
A normal kid off the field who wears glasses and likes video games and loves to eat, Braden quickly embraced the Oregon culture and bonded with new teammates like Tyrell Crosby and Morgan Mahalak. He told James on Signing Day, “Everything that Oregon has to offer is just amazing. When I went up there, I liked the players, the coaches, the people that are going there that also committed today.”
In his senior year the Indians finished 6-5 and made the playoffs tieing for second place in the league but losing to Oakridge-El Dorado the weekend he visited Autzen. In their home opener last year they beat Paradise of Butte County 42-21 after a sluggish start.
The offense had a miserable first quarter, just just 12 yards rushing, no first downs, no passing yards, and 55 yards in penalties.
Braden and his teammates bore down. They erupted for three touchdowns after the half, finishing the game 502 yards of offense, reeling off three decisive drives out of their pistol offense 76 yards in 11 plays, 76 yards in 10 plays, 83 yards in six plays, and 82 yards in five plays. The Register’s James was there, saw tailback Derek Poteet scoot for 183 yards and three touchdowns on five carries, all behind big number 76.
The Ducks have recruited a handful of flashy offensive stars that will gain the attention and the statistics in the future, superbly talented kids like Royce Freeman, Tony James and Mahalak, Georgia scatback Taj Griffin in the 2015 class. Toiling in the weight room and stretching out on foam rollers are the big guys who will make that offense go, a couple of mammoth, athletic marvels who rarely get photographed and show up sideways on a television replay. Braden Eggert and Tyrell Crosby are the foundation of Oregon’s future. The Quack Attack rests on some broad, capable shoulders.