The crowd is silent, sitting in anticipation, waiting for the game to start. Players from both teams are on the field in their ready positions. The referee blows the official start whistle. The kicker boots the ball and the game has officially begun.
Sophomore Tahir Johnson is returning to the varsity team for his second year. This season, he has become the official starting quarterback for the Royals. Last season, he played a couple games under the former quarterback, graduate Saquan Harrison. Watching Harrison play helped Johnson going into this season.
“[I learned] to stay focused and lead the team,” Johnson said.
Playing with seniors as a sophomore may be intimidating, but not for Johnson. The seniors have helped and taught Johnson important lessons on and off the field.
“Everyone is watching,” Johnson said. “They’re watching your every move on the field and off the field.”
Just like being on any other team, there are hardships that come along with playing football. Living up to the expectations each game is the hardest part for the young quarterback.
This season, the sophomore helped set a record. For the first time since 2005, the Royals beat the Dinwiddie Generals. Ending the streak was a big moment for the team. Johnson contributed to a big part of the victory.
“He plays an extremely middle position,” head coach Richard Carroll said. “He needs to understand concepts beyond every player. The difference between him and other positions on the field is he’s got to know his job which includes knowing everyone else’s job.”
Similar to Johnson, senior Sidney Rose has been on the varsity team since he was in ninth grade as well. Knowing what it was like for him, Rose is able to help Johnson with the pressures.
“I have taught him to be confident in himself, to tune out negative noise, and just play ball,” Rose said. “The things I want to teach him is more responsibility and leadership and knowing the inside and out of our program.”
Each Friday, the team has one goal: win the game. The overall goal of the team is to not only make it to playoffs, but also to make it to states.
“[We’re] trying to win one game at a time,” Carroll said. “You can’t look beyond tonight. Really, that means you need to approach every practice with a purpose and understand that everyday builds to that next Friday. It really just comes down to preparing for one game at a time.”
How the players communicate and work together on the field reflects their relationships off the field. The tighter the friendship, the more communication and team work during the games. For Rose, he sees Johnson as a younger brother.
“As a blocker, my job is to not let my little brother get hit,” Rose said.
While Johnson hopes to improve with two seasons remaining, the coaching staff is behind him with full support. With each practice, Johnson works on building his skills.
“He’s going to get better everyday,” Carroll said. “He gets better everyday now. As he continues to improve, he’s going to make us better and our ability to get the ball down the field. We’ve got receivers that can go get it. And our play action game: he’s going to get the ball down the field and that makes us a threat, really a complete package.”