By Steve Breazeale
Cade Henjum’s roots in the Saddleback Valley Christian football program run deep.
His father, Mike Henjum, used to be the head coach of the program in the early 2000s. As a youngster enrolled in the K-12 school, Cade would always tag along with his dad and watch the Warriors practice. Cade eventually earned the starting quarterback job as a sophomore, and has been re-writing the school record books ever since.
Now a senior, Cade calls the school his second home.
Which made the Warriors’ most recent offseason situation such an interesting challenge for the record-setting quarterback.
The Warriors won the CIF-SS East Valley Division Championship in 2015 and appeared in their first state bowl game. It was the program’s best season ever. They were poised to return several key pieces in 2016, but many of those players transferred out, leaving Henjum as the lone impact player on the roster.
To make matters worse, there were only seven players coming out for the team’s spring practices. Head coach Brendan Chambers said there were doubts the school would even field a football team in 2016.
An influx of underclassmen eventually solved the numbers dilemma the team faced, but that still left them with a young and inexperienced roster. Henjum, who takes great pride in SVC’s football tradition, refused to believe the Warriors would fall by the wayside during his final year on campus.
Fueled by the desire to return SVC to the top, Henjum is having a season for the ages.
He has thrown for 2,441 yards, completing nearly 57 percent of his passes. He has tossed 29 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions, and is averaging just over 305 yards per game. He ranks fifth in Orange County in passing touchdowns, and he is third in the county in yards per game.
He has also been a dynamo on the ground.
As a junior surrounded by playmaking receivers and running backs, Henjum was known as a prototypical pocket-passer. He would rarely stray out of the pocket unless the situation called for it. Now, the 6-foot, 200-pounder runs at will, using a potent mix of strength and agility to move the chains.
Henjum has rushed for 957 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and 18 touchdowns.
Over his last five games, Henjum has averaged 491 yards of total offense and produced 34 touchdowns (22 passing, 12 rushing).
The numbers are spectacular, but Henjum is most proud of the fact that the Warriors have a 5-3 overall record and are off to a perfect 3-0 start in San Joaquin League play. SVC is now eyeing its 13th league title, a feat only the Warriors thought was possible two months ago.
“At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of people saying we won’t be good. … It made me angry because people had no respect, especially after we won CIF,” Henjum said. “That just became my driving force, to show everyone that’s not going to be us. We’re going to come out and fight just like we did last year.”
Henjum’s performance on the field is only half of the Warriors’ winning equation, however. In the offseason, Henjum set the tone for the young group in the weight room and in film sessions, Chambers said.
Henjum worked tirelessly with the Warriors receiving corps, building strong bonds with juniors Jack Deavila (778 yards, seven touchdowns) and Jackson Greene (436 yards, five touchdowns). The receivers have stepped up in kind, as six different players have caught 10 or more passes, and eight different players have touchdown receptions.
The Warriors young offensive line has given Henjum enough time to read the field and make a play.
Henjum’s transition to a dual-threat quarterback has an ironic twist attached. Last season, he fractured his fibula late in the season trying to gain extra yards on a run play, and had to re-learn to trust the strength of his leg while recovering. In the Warriors season-opener against Northwood on Aug. 25, he rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns, erasing any second-thoughts he might have had.
“He’s got the build of a linebacker, and he’s bigger than most of our offensive line, but with that he’s also very agile,” Chambers said. “When people see him, they think he’s going to run them over and they stop their feet waiting for it, and the next thing you know he’s by them.”
Chambers has played an integral part in Henjum’s transformation into record-setting quarterback. It started when Henjum was in grade school, and Chambers out on the field as the Warriors signal caller. Chambers set multiple school passing records while attending SVCS, and came back as an assistant coach while he was in college.
Henjum grew up idolizing Chambers, and wears his coach’s old uniform number to honor him.
Henjum has also broken nearly every passing record his coach set.
Henjum is the school record-holder in passing yards, completions and touchdowns in a game. He holds single-season records in passing touchdowns and completions, and he is the career record-holder in passing yards, completions and touchdowns. Just about all of those records used to belong to Chambers.
Henjum is also just 316 passing yards shy of setting the single-season record, another mark that belongs to Chambers.
“He’s just shattering all of my records,” Chambers said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t want anybody else to do it except for him. To see him grow these last four years, especially from last year to now, has been an awesome experience for me as a coach.”
The Warriors need just one more win in order to become playoff eligible, and two more victories would mean they will win the league title for an 11th consecutive year. With Henjum under center, willing the team to victory after victory, another deep postseason push is not out of the question.
“He’s the leader of this team and we’re going to go as far as he’s going to take us,” Chambers said. “All eyes are on him every single practice, every single game and he’s risen to the occasion every single time.”