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Indian Rocks quarterback make golden choice: football over baseball

Indian Rocks quarterback Garrett Ross-Johnson will lead the Golden Eagles against Glades Day in the Class 2A state semifinals Friday in Belle Glade.
Indian Rocks quarterback Garrett Ross-Johnson will lead the Golden Eagles against Glades Day in the Class 2A state semifinals Friday in Belle Glade.
Published Nov. 26, 2014

LARGO

Indian Rocks Christian quarterback Garrett Ross-Johnson does not have overwhelming statistics. He is not the fleetest of foot. He does not have a cannon for an arm or the size to run over defenders.

But, boy, is Golden Eagles coach Mark Buchanan glad he is on the team.

Ross-Johnson, a junior, almost didn't play football this season. After starting 13 games last season and throwing for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns, Ross-Johnson thought about playing baseball full time.

A left-hander, he played all summer on a travel ball team. He was having fun, and pitchers don't exactly get rushed by 250-pound defensive linemen. Not playing football was starting to sound better and better.

"I had to make a pretty hard decision about what I wanted to do," the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Ross-Johnson said. "I like both sports equally. I made the decision to come back out and play football. The team needed me, and I felt bad so I came back out."

But not before a nudge from Buchanan. Buchanan heard about Ross-Johnson's hesitation to play football in the fall and had to recruit him back onto the team.

"I had to sell him pretty hard," Buchanan said. "He was really doing well in baseball. I heard about it late in the summer. At that time I really didn't have a backup plan. I'm sure glad he came back out, let's put it that way."

Buchanan said if Ross-Johnson hadn't returned, Plan B probably would have been putting running back Damian King at quarterback. Since that didn't happen, King got to stay at running back, where the Golden Eagles are loaded.

Two backs, senior transfer Jacquan Fuller and junior Zeke McGaughy, have rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Junior Theo Anderson has 759 yards rushing. King, who missed four games due to injury, has 155 yards on 16 carries and has also caught two touchdown passes.

With an improved offensive line and four capable backs, Ross-Johnson is in a good situation. He isn't being asked to win games with his arm. He has completed 31 of 62 passes for 663 yards and nine touchdowns.

"Those guys are really good backs," Ross-Johnson said. "Obviously, I'm not needed to throw it as much, but that's fine. I knew that's how it was going to be. My job is basically to convert third downs and keep drives going."

The Golden Eagles will have their toughest test of the season Friday when they travel to Belle Glade to take on Glades Day in the Class 2A state semifinals.

The Gators (11-2) have recorded eight shutouts. The fewest points Indian Rocks (11-0) has scored this season was 21 against Admiral Farragut. Every other game has required a running clock due to the 35-point rule.

Ross-Johnson said it's fun being part of a team this successful.

"I knew we were going to be a good football team but I didn't know we were going to make it this far," he said. "It's pretty exciting. It's more of a team effort now. If I have just one play in a game where I can help the team then that's fine with me."

When the season is over and the pads are put away, Ross-Johnson will go back to baseball. He still has his senior year to look forward to, but will he spend it only on the baseball diamond or will he return to the football field?

"Not really sure yet," he said with a laugh.

Contact Rodney Page at page@tampabay.com. Follow @RodneyHomeTeam.

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