Alone at the controls now, Johnston developing nicely as Cougars QB
DUBLIN – Some jobs are best left to just one individual.
No disagreements on that score will be coming from Marcus Johnston, who this year took over full-time duties as Pulaski County’s quarterback.
Johnston had 108 yards total offense and threw a touchdown pass as the Cougars opened the River Ridge District schedule
with a flourish by upsetting previously undefeated Christiansburg 17-14 last week on the Blue Demons’ field.
This time last year, Johnston was sharing quarterbacking duties with Tyler Dotson. As the season progressed, then sophomore Johnston took more and more of the snaps. Dotson has moved to the receiving corps this year.
“In the offseason, Marcus really established himself as one of our leaders,” Cougars coach Todd Jones said. “He was
here in class lifting hard , then after school he’s be out here getting the guys together, going to the 7-on-7’s and doing the things we can do now with the new rules in place.”
The two-quarterback system served its purpose and the players handled it well, but Johnston said he was never completely at ease looking over his shoulder. Now that he has the confidence of his teammates and coach he has more confidence in himself.
Having more help than last year is also a factor in his success.
“We’ve got more good players around him now,” Jones said.
That equates to more passing targets. Jones has opened up his offense with more shotgun and spread looks to go with the
more familiar wing-T that they relied almost exclusively on last year.
“We have receivers who can go get it and outrun just about anybody or go up and get over top of them,” Johnston said.
The 9-yard TD pass to Dillon Alley was Pulaski County’s first score last week. Johnston fired a strike that traveled
quickly at a near-flat trajectory. Later, Johnston connected with Cody Blevins for a 29-yarder that kept a drive moving.
In all, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Johnston completed four of nine passes for 53 yards. He also showed a flare for effective
running, leading the team in rushing with 55 yards on 15 carries.
“I like that fact that I can take off at any time and gain some yards,” he said.
So does his coach.
“He’s a passer who can run; he’s a runner who can throw the ball,” Jones said.
That ability has to be honored by the defense on several different levels. Johnston is also the Cougars punter.
“He’s a weapon,” Jones said. “He can boom it. We feel like we want to win the field position battle and pin people deep.”
Johnston taught himself to punt.
“Out in the yard pretty much out of necessity,” he said. “It was pretty easy. My teams have needed me to punt. I’ve done it
basically my whole life through rec ball and middle school.”
Johnston is developing into a skilled passer, too. Against Christiansburg, he was accurate and his ball had plenty of pace.
That was something else he worked on in the offseason. In addition to joining teammates for several 7-on-7 competitions, he attended a quarterback camp at the University of Virginia and Quarterback Factory at Heritage High in Lynchburg.
“I learned how to read defenses and different coverages,” he said. “It made it easy to see defenses where the holes were
going to be, where to throw the ball, and how to throw the ball on time.”
The extra work shows.
“He’s been very efficient with our offense,” Jones said. “He’s directed and guided it and done a tremendous job with it. He
knows his role in terms of being a leader and he’s accepted and embraced it. He just keeps getting better.”
By Ray Cox
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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