Quick Take:

Jordan McCord III led Soquel High School to a historic football victory against Palma High last week, with his athleticism playing a key role as the Knights scored a 14-7 win and avenged last season’s loss. McCord has earned scholarship offers from San Jose State and Eastern Washington.

With the score tied 7-7 late in the fourth against powerhouse Palma High School last Friday, Jordan McCord III of Soquel High School lined up on the outside at the Knights’ 45-yard line. He already had one touchdown reception earlier in the game, when he flashed past the defense and caught the football in open space on the way to the end zone.

The senior track star had worked his whole life for this moment. Soquel was looking to beat Palma for the first time in school history and avenge a 49-14 loss to the Chieftains a season ago. With players beginning to feel fatigued as the clock wound down, McCord, 17, was still fresh. He is an ironman who plays every single play, whether that be at wide receiver on offense, cornerback on defense, or on special teams.

His assignment on defense against Palma was covering senior wide receiver Logan Saldate, a four-star recruit who is committed to play football next year at the University of Notre Dame. Saldate came into the game having caught touchdowns in four consecutive games. When the two teams faced off last season, Saldate broke tackle after tackle to score a pair of highlight-reel touchdowns in a 35-point victory.

“I like getting out there and being able to compete against one of the best players in the area,” McCord said. “It’s great to play against someone that’s good like that.”

McCord kept Saldate out of the end zone and held him to six receptions for 60 yards. McCord is a three-star athlete who has earned scholarship offers from San Jose State and Eastern Washington for his abilities as a wide receiver.

Later on in the fourth quarter, McCord would show exactly why those schools were so interested.

Jordan McCord III of Soquel High School

“Anytime you have a difference-maker like Jordan, it puts you in a position where you’re not out of the game no matter what the score is or what the situation is,” said Soquel coach Dwight Lowery. “That’s something that Jordan has put himself in a position to provide for this team.”

Lowery first coached McCord during flag football at New Brighton Middle School.

McCord played Pop Warner tackle football in elementary school before switching to flag football in middle school to begin preparing for high school. He consistently put in hard work, running routes and lifting weights under the hot Santa Cruz sun. By the time he got to high school, in the COVID-shortened 2020 football season, he could play with the best and his body could weather the physicality of the game.

He earned a spot on varsity under Lowery, a former NFL player who had 17 career interceptions across nine seasons with the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers.

“It’s great,” McCord said of playing for Lowery. “We have a solid relationship because he coached me before high school. So coming into high school, we kind of already had that chemistry.”

The Knights played just five games in McCord’s first-year season, when he recorded his first career touchdown and interception.

“It was only five games, but I think it was a valuable experience for him to play at that level,” Lowery said. “That kind of gave him the confidence to know that he could do it and to know that the dreams and aspirations that he has can be reached. His work ethic carried him all the way throughout.”

The next year, McCord began to dominate: He scored 11 touchdowns as sophomore, tallying up 722 yards and 31 receptions as Soquel went 7-4 and reached the postseason.

As a junior in the fall of 2022, his numbers grew even more and Soquel won 10 games for the first time in at least 20 years. On defense, he picked off four passes, and on offense, he had 37 catches for 812 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He then put on his track shoes and sped his way to become the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League champion in the 100-meter and 4×100 relay. His season ended with a trip to the Central Coast Section finals. Rounding out a busy 2022-23 school year, he participated in college football camps all around the nation in the summer before this season and picked up his two scholarship offers in June.

  • Jordan McCord III and the Soquel High Knights finish their regular season Nov. 3 at Aptos High.
  • Soquel High's Jordan McCord tries to shake loose from a Haybalers defender.

Even with those offers in hand, the work didn’t stop for McCord, who has also succeeded in the classroom with a grade-point average above 3.0. He put in extra work in the weight room and on the field, especially with sophomore Sam Whelan stepping in for his first season as varsity quarterback.

McCord, Whelan and several teammates practiced all summer, and their connection started to grow. McCord caught two touchdowns in the second game of the season, a 37-0 victory over visiting Burlingame High School. Over the next five weeks, McCord found the end zone in wins over Scotts Valley High School and Monterey High School, and on Oct. 13 against Hollister High School, Whelan hit McCord for two touchdowns. Heading into the matchup with Palma, McCord had topped milestones of 2,000 career receiving yards while scoring more than 30 touchdowns in a Soquel uniform.

After a summer of hard work and nearly a full season of games, McCord, Whelan and the rest of the Knights found themselves tied with the Chieftains late in the fourth quarter last Friday, with the ball on the Knights’ 45-yard line.

As soon as Whelan took the shotgun snap, McCord was off, putting himself into position to leap up and catch the pass 30 yards downfield. He came down with the football, shook loose from the defender at his feet, then juked out another defender before beating a third Palma player the final 30 yards into the end zone for the winning score.

“That felt amazing, especially getting revenge because they blew us out last year,” McCord said. “That’s a solid team win right there.”

Soquel beat Palma 14-7 and improved its record to 7-2 on the season and 4-1 in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division, one of the toughest leagues in the Central Coast Section.

“I’m just trying to be great, make my family proud and just prove to myself that I can be something special,” McCord said.

Soquel closes out the regular season at Aptos High School on Nov. 3.

The Central Coast Section playoffs will begin the following week, on Nov. 10. Last season, Soquel was the top seed in Division III and hosted two playoff games, a 28-7 victory over Terra Nova High School in the first round and a 42-28 loss to Hollister High School in the second round.

Lookout Santa Cruz Athletes of the Month are selected by Lookout and the Reggie Stephens Foundation for the athlete’s exemplary skill and character on and off the field.

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Follow Thomas Frey on: Twitter. Thomas comes to Lookout with eight years of high school sports reporting in California under his belt.Covering sports in Santa Cruz County has been a dream of his since...