Tension ran high in the Falls Church huddle last Friday night. The team was about to attempt a two-point conversion after scoring an overtime touchdown to cut Yorktown's lead to 42-41. The Jaguars circled around senior QB Joey Collins, and he didn't mince words.
"He said, 'I don't know about y'all, but I love every single one of y'all,' " senior wide receiver R.J. Davis said, laughing.
With the team's anxiety eased, Collins completed his pass to senior WR Maximillian HurKamp for the 43-42 victory.
"I was just trying to take some pressure off people," Collins said. "That was a big play and it worked out for us."
Collins hasn't been feeling much pressure all season. With help from an offensive line that has only allowed one sack, Collins has passed for less than 200 yards in a game only twice this year; his 1,861 yards passing ranks third in the Washington area.
Down 21-0 after the first quarter against Yorktown, Collins led the team back with four touchdown passes, two two-point conversion passes and a touchdown run. He finished 28-of-39 passing for a career-high 339 yards. Collins's play has the Jaguars (5-3, 4-1 AAA National District) on the cusp of only their second winning season in 25 years.
All these stats are heady stuff for a quarterback who freely admits that he is not as naturally talented as some of his counterparts in the region.
Instead, Collins and Coach Anthony Parker credit Collins's success to his work ethic and on-field presence.
"As a freshman and a sophomore, we never thought he would be a starter," Parker said. "But he's just so cerebral out there and makes so many plays."
Collins started three games as a junior -- he was filling in for an injured player -- with limited success. Over the summer, Collins practiced passing routes daily with Davis, the team's leading receiver last year. HurKamp and fellow senior wide receiver Tony Collins would join the pair at times. That familiarity gained during the summer has transferred seamlessly to the season. Davis (39 receptions, 636 yards) is sixth in the area in receptions, HurKamp (35, 517) is 10th and Tony Collins, who is no relation to Joey, has 27 catches for 424 yards.
"We hang out all the time," Joey Collins said of his relationship with the receivers. "We have a lot of trust together. That helps us when we need it."
The four players will need to be at their best if they are to win this week against Edison. The Eagles (7-1, 4-1) are coming off their first loss of the season and would be none too happy if the Jaguars were to further harm their playoff chances.
"I know it's going to be a tough game, but I really want us to pull it out," Joey Collins said. "I think we have the weapons to do it."