Prior to the start of the 2013 prep football season, Ceres High junior quarterback Brad Bussard talked about playing with a chip on his shoulder.
"My dad's a coach," the 6-foot-tall junior said. "I'm always underestimated. I want to prove people wrong and show them I'm good enough to play at the varsity level. I worked hard to get this spot."
Bussard silenced critics with his prolific play during the Bulldogs' preseason.
Brad totaled 1,452 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 1-3 Ceres High.
"I never thought he'd be the starting varsity quarterback because of his size and the way he threw the ball his freshman year," Bulldogs senior receiver Dylan Canatsy said. "He's grown and his arm strength has improved. I'm happy for him. We got a good connection. We go out and throw the ball during the weekends."
Bussard passed for 437 yards and six touchdowns, both believed to be program records, in the Bulldogs' 74-41 loss to host Modesto High on Aug. 30.
"He did well for his first start," Ceres High head coach Bret Durossette said. "The offensive line did a great job of pass protecting. He's got some people around him who can catch the ball."
Just two other quarterbacks in California turned in similar performances in their team's openers last month according to MaxPreps.
Folsom junior Jake Browning completed 31 of 38 passes for 438 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception.
Junior Brady White of Newhall's Hart High School totaled 471 yards, to go along with three touchdowns and no picks, while connecting on 35 of his 46 pass attempts.
"I'm proud of Brad," said Durossette, a 1986 Ceres High grad who starred at quarterback with the Bulldogs for two seasons. "He did awesome. It's good advertisement for Ceres High School. I'd like to see what he'll do this next go around."
"I was pretty shocked," Bussard said while talking about his impressive single-game performance. "But it's tough to stop our offense. If our defense steps up, we can surprise people."
Barring injury, Bussard will have a chance to join elite company as one of Ceres High's all-time greatest quarterbacks.
Derrick Goblirsch (class of 2005) led the Bulldogs to the Modesto Metro Conference title his senior year and back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths.
Donnie Donaldson (class of 1989) propelled Ceres High to an appearance in the Division-II section championship game in 1988. Donaldson threw for 254 yards and scored once on the ground as the Bulldogs suffered a heart-breaking 14-12 loss to Los Banos.
Rex Holm (class of 1969) ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in Northern California while guiding Ceres High to a perfect 10-0 record and the Mountain Valley League crown (4-0) in 1968. He passed for 21 touchdowns, helping the Bulldogs end a 17-year championship drought.
Ceres High compiled a 9-4 record, captured the Golden Valley League title (5-1) and lost 44-3 to El Camino in the Division-II section finals with Durossette directing the offense in 1985.
"I haven't seen him (Bussard) play so I don't know what his mechanics are like," Donaldson said. "I'm so busy with softball. I'd love to coach a kid like that. I know he works hard in the weight room. I hope he continues to tear it up and stays healthy. I wish him all the luck."
"He's got the drive to do well," Durossette added. "He wants to be successful. He's competitive. He's sharp."
Bussard completed 27 of 44 passes against Modesto High. He was intercepted three times.
"I need to make smarter reads," said Bussard, his own worst critic. "I need to improve. I want to play at the next level."
Brad finished 38-of-57 for 414 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions in Ceres High's 45-30 loss at Gregori on Sept. 6.
Bussard had 193 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while connecting on 19 of 37 pass attempts during the Bulldogs' 64-21 defeat at the hands of visiting Downey on Sept. 13. Brad also scored a rushing TD and lost a fumble.
Brad and the Bulldogs capped off the preseason with a 51-48 win over visiting Johansen last Friday.
Bussard was 23 of 33 for 408 yards with four touchdowns and no picks as Ceres High snapped a nine-game losing streak dating back to last year.
Canatsy, Brad's main target, has 45 catches, 700 yards and seven touchdowns through the Bulldogs' first four games. He's also one of the top players at his position in the state.
Brad and Dylan have both benefitted from playing in Durossette's up-tempo offense.
"Your adrenaline is up," Canatsy said. "You don't get tired. It's fun passing, getting the ball in the air. But we need to work on our run game."
The Bulldogs, 0-4 in non-conference play, have scored 143 points this year. Ceres' opponents have totaled 231 points.
"We're aware of it (individual success)," Dylan said. "We put it aside the first day we found out. We try not to brag about it. We're worried more about winning."