The last time Brentwood (Calif.) Liberty lost a game, it was Oct. 27, 2017. That’s also the last time Jay Butterfield wasn’t the starter.
The then-sophomore quarterback led the Lions to the CIF-Northern California Division 1 title just a month later. Now it’s 2018, and Michigan’s top remaining target for the 2020 class has racked up the numbers.
2,783 passing yards. 39 touchdowns to just five picks. 15-0 as a starter.
Most importantly, he guided the Lions to the program’s first ever state semifinal appearance last Saturday against national powerhouse Concord De La Salle.
Why the long preface? It needs to be said prior to diving into Butterfield’s rough night, as De La Salle routed Liberty 42-7.
Another disclaimer: the Spartans have not lost to a Northern California foe since 1991. They also boast two elite athletes on defense in 4-stars Henry To’oto’o and Isaiah Foskey — a former Wolverine target.
Despite a step-up in competition, the early results were promising. On the Lions first drive, Butterfield navigated the offense down the field for a touchdown.
He fired two completions, the first on a 10-yard out for a first down. He used his eyes to draw defenders on an inside slant, and threw a rope to the sideline with impeccable timing. At 6-foot-6, the junior is able to survey defenses (when he gets time) at an advanced level.
After showing arm strength on the first pass, he downshifted the velocity on his second, lofting a scoring toss to the back of the end zone.
Down seven, De La Salle ratcheted up the pressure, committing to blitzes on most downs and full-time press-man coverage. Butterfield withstood the heat at first, whipping another dart to the sideline for 10 yards. Two sacks ended the threat — there was nowhere to move in the pocket.
The constant harassment started to force errors. With the Spartan secondary in blanket coverage, he tried to make up for it with his arm. Instead, two passes sailed for interceptions.
Down 14 at halftime, he adjusted out of the break. Two completions helped march the Lions into scoring position, and on fourth down, he launched a perfect pass to his receiver for a touchdown...only for it to get dropped.
Perfect throw into endzone...only for a drop to prevent a score. Still 21-7 DLS over @lhslionsfb in the @CIFNCS Open final. Butterfield 7-15 for 42 yds, TD and 2 picks. pic.twitter.com/dZD8M6AOjE— Sam Dodge (@samgododge) December 2, 2018
With De La Salle’s triple option offense rolling, the Liberty offense needed to kick it into gear. Butterfield placed a tight spiral low and inside on a slant for a first down. The next play, he perfectly executed a back shoulder fade, only for an illegal formation to nullify the gain.
In desperation, he tried to fit passes through tight windows, leading to two more picks. One of them was returned for a touchdown, essentially sealing the game.
The final stat line: 9-for-21, 63 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.
There’s a reason Butterfield is the No. 45 player in the country, according to the 247 Sports Composite.
His excellent mechanics — his dad is a former Stanford quarterback — are well-drilled, but it doesn’t diminish his smoothness as an athlete. Even on the two sacks, he glided out of the pocket. There was just too much pressure.
With few receivers breaking free and little time to process information, his ability to read and pick apart secondaries was compromised. Chalk this one up to typical De La Salle dominance.
Final note on his recruitment after talking with several people close to the program: There’s a suspicion that Michigan leads, but the Stanford lineage is drawing the recruitment out. David Shaw has yet to extend an offer, for what it’s worth.
As reported last week, Butterfield grew up wearing cardinal and white...but during the Jim Harbaugh era. Once the season wraps up in the next few weeks — the loss relegated Liberty to the Division I regional final — it’s worth keeping an eye out for developments in his recruitment.
Shout out to DeAnne Gliedt at PM Sports for the action shots!