Drew Munoz knows it’s coming. In an October game against West Ranch, Munoz, a Hart receiver, is the target of a Zach Johnson pass.
Time nearly stops as the ball becomes a speeding bullet, making a thud-crunch sound as it hits Munoz directly in the chest. Munoz cradles it, pivots sharply and bolts toward the end zone to complete an 11-yard touchdown.
“He throws hard,” Munoz said. “Every single time he gets a chance, he guns it in there, but it just shows how good of an arm he has.”
Johnson has flourished as the Indians’ field general this season. Currently, the junior has completed 191 out of 306 passes for 2,440 yards and 26 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Prior to the start of the season, the Indians were faced with a quarterback battle between Johnson and senior Kyle Wiggins. That battle ended abruptly when Wiggins was sidelined with a concussion.
Since then, Johnson has become a comfortable, confident leader for the Indians, slinging touchdown passes and sharpening his knowledge of the game along the way.
“He always had a mental grasp of the game,” said coach Mike Herrington. “He knows just as much as coaches do. He studies film well and when we were out at practice, he could direct guys here and there and adjust things on the fly and a lot of high school quarterbacks can’t do that.”
Johnson has been playing quarterback since he was six years old and has learned plenty about the position. He’s worked with quarterback coach Dean Herrington, a former Hart QB himself and current Paraclete coach, ever since he picked up a football.
In his journey, Johnson has learned that preparation is key.
“Especially in football,” Johnson said, “knowing your opponent going into the game and knowing what they like to do and what they do best and how you can exploit that … can give yourself and your team the best opportunity to be successful.”
As Johnson progresses, so do his receivers. The Indians have created depth at the position, with five different players logging over 300 receiving yards this season.
Jacob Montes leads the group with 57 catches for 677 yards and four touchdowns. Munoz follows with 25 catches for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ashton Thomas, Michael Colangelo and Ryan Tomaszewski have also accumulated over 300 receiving yards. Each has a handful of touchdown receptions, too.
“He throws to the open guys,” Herrington said. “He’s not just staring down one receiver and that’s our passing game concept. We have combination routes and you’ve got to read the coverage and throw to the open guy and Zach does a great job doing that.”
Johnson is the latest in a talented lineage of Hart quarterbacks. He succeeds JT Shrout (now at Tennessee) and Nick Moore (Oregon State) and plenty more skilled field generals that have come before.
He’s well aware of the history, but doesn’t feel pressure filling the role of Hart’s quarterback. Rather, he embraces the opportunity, one pad-crunching touchdown pass at a time.
“Growing up watching all those guys and knowing who all of them are and how successful they’ve been, it’s really cool watching them play out that role and now being in that role myself,” he said.
“It kind of just, the dreams that you had as a kid watching them play and to do that, you’re kind of living them out.”