It’s been quite a week for William Monroe football player Joshua Johnson.
Last Saturday, the sophomore fullback rushed for nearly 90 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Greene Dragons to a 21-0 victory over Warren County on Senior Day.
Four days later, he sat with his teammates in disbelief as Coach Jon Rocha told them that their season was over following a positive COVID-19 test within the football program.
“We got the news right before we started practice,” Johnson said. “It really sucked knowing that this team had so much talent and hard work all around, and that we couldn’t play together anymore and seeing how much the coaches cared really hurt a lot.”
The news was especially hard for the seven members of team who joined the football program after having their basketball season cut short because of COVID-19 issues just prior to the Region 4B playoffs.
Seniors Franklin Lindsay and Logan Barbour were both members of the Dragons’ varsity football and boys basketball programs, as was Johnson. The group admitted the news wasn’t easier to hear this time around.
“It was really heartbreaking to have my senior year end early due to COVID,” Lindsay said. “I believe the team we had would’ve made a deep playoff run, but I went ahead and joined William Monroe’s football team to keep my mind off of basketball and to try something new.”
Lindsay made the most of his first season with the William Monroe football program, carving out a niche for himself as a two-way performer at receiver and safety. He was thankful for the opportunity to strap on the helmet and shoulder pads for the Dragons.
“Having this football season end due to COVID as well just makes you appreciate the little moments,” he said. “It’s just as devastating because the team we had this season was finally coming together. We were finally starting to become family and brothers. It meant a lot to be a part of such a group.”
Senior quarterback Blaise VanDyke, who had taken the reins of the offense and the role of team leader this season, admitted the news was tough to process.
“It was a terrible feeling for us all,” he said. “Some of us were angry, others were just crushed, especially for us seniors. I was angry at first that it happened and what we could have achieved, but I thought there was nothing we could do about it.”
“When I found out about the news, I was more mad rather than being said,” he said. “Just knowing that we got our basketball season canceled and then coming into football prepared for the year and then the season gets canceled right toward the end just made me feel so lost.”
Rocha said the players, coaches and administration were thorough in following proper COVID-19 protocols. However, with a highly contagious virus, the veteran coach said a positive test could’ve happened to anyone.
“It has not been hard to follow the protocols this year,” Rocha said. “It has been different, but not difficult. It is no one’s fault and our team knows that. They are a tight group and have been there for each other.”
Barbour, an all-district performer at receiver and defensive back for the Dragons, was able to put things in perspective.
“When I heard the news, I was disappointed, but it was kind of expected because of basketball,” he said. “Those four games were still very fun. I’m thankful that we got the chance to be out there.”
Despite the disappointing ending to the season, Rocha implored his players to hold their heads high.
“This team should be very proud of their accomplishments in such short time,” he said. “We were just getting to the point where the new guys were understanding their roles and the returners were playing to their potential. They got to walk out on the field with their families last weekend for Senior Night and win their final high school football game. Those are some pretty good accomplishments to be proud of, especially in a season like no other year.”
For Johnson, who scored three touchdowns in the two games that he played, there are plenty of positives to take from the experience.
“My favorite memory is probably the things that happened off the field,” he said. “Like the jokes we made on the bus rides to away games, the jokes made in the locker room and just being able to hang out with everyone and take our minds off of football for a while.”
VanDyke said playing football in the spring is something he won’t soon forget.
“It has been one of my favorite seasons out of any that I have played,” he said. “One of my favorite memories this season was our last game together. I’ll always remember this team for how close we were and how well we worked together. This team was one of the few teams that I’ve been on that felt like family.”