Sophomores Quintin Batson and Garrett King are best friends on a mission to make Central football better.
Bulldogs coach Lorenzo Williams decided to make the duo varsity starters from the first game of their freshman season. Batson at quarterback and King at running back.
Williams recalls the first time they trotted onto the field.
“Right before the game, I looked at them both and they just looked like deer in the headlights. Their eyes were so wide,” Williams said.
Williams stuck with the young backfield tandem in effort to build an offense around the two best friends.
“I love the dude to death,” King said of Batson. “We do everything together. He is my No. 1 inspiration. We’re always out here doing what we can do. We came here on a mission and that was to change Central football, and I think we’re taking it in the right step.”
King was pressed into action at running back when his older brother, Javiaun King suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.
“It was scary at first,” Garrett King admitted. “Coming out here at running back being one of the smallest dudes on the team was pretty scary.”
King posted 1,400 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns in the first seven games of this season. Batson appears comfortable throwing to King from the backfield.
“That’s my best friend back there, so it’s always good to have him back there with me. He’s a playmaker, it’s just good seeing him do the things he does,” Batson said.
Batson has completed more than 70 percent for his passes for 1,630 yards and 14 touchdowns. The stats support what Williams already knows: Batson is maturing with every game he plays at quarterback.
“He’s doing a really good job of little things like throwing the ball away instead of taking sacks, finding his way through the pocket to find a hole and get the ball downfield, continuing to look down the field, running when he has to,” Williams said.
Williams said both Batson and King attended every available summer workout and team activity.
“You see a different intensity, a different focus. I think a lot of that comes from preparation,” Williams said. “Both of them, in their own way, gained their own confidence and you see it in the games.”
With his brother looking on, Garrett King became a focal point of Central’s offense as the Bulldogs struggled to a 2-8 record in 2014. Javiaun King went on to join the football team at Lyon College.
“He’s a great brother,” Garrett said of Javiaun. “He taught me many life lessons, but the one thing he always taught me to do was to never give up and always fight for what you want.”
The fight to become a better football player started last November in the weight room, where King lifted his way to greater strength. He now runs the ball with 220 pounds of muscle.
“With his body type he can’t be flashy, he’s got to run over some people. We worked on that all summer,” Williams said. “The difference is amazing, guys are bouncing off of him.”
Central is 4-3 entering the News-Leader Game of the Week at undefeated Reeds Spring (7-0). This season marks just the third time in the past decade for Central to win four or more football games. The Bulldogs’ last winning season came in 2002.
“We really bought into the offensive playbook, everybody is getting more involved in it. Guys are really trusting the program and trusting everything that the coaches are saying,” Batson said. “I think Coach has put into our heads that we’re not done. We still have a lot to prove.”
Batson and King aren’t satisfied. They want to win and have fun doing it, and that begins with attitude.
“We believe, that’s what we’re focusing on, that’s our big key right now,” King said. “We know what we can be and what we can become, so that’s what we’re fighting to get to.”
The Springfield News-Leader Game of the Week showcases one high school football game per week through the regular season. The Game of the Week is selected by News-Leader staff based on an array of criteria including quality of play, rivalry, conference significance and playoff implications.
News-Leader Game of the Week
Central (4-3) at Reeds Spring (7-0)
Friday, Oct. 9, 7 p.m.
Carl Langley Field at Wolves Stadium, Reeds Spring High School
20277 MO-413, Reeds Spring
High school football rankings after Week 7