As the C.A. Johnson Green Hornets continue their quest to capture the program’s first region title, one of the most important players to help accomplish that feat is quarterback Caleb Pearson.
The second year C.A. Johnson quarterback has played varsity football for four years, three with the Green Hornets. He originally played for the Richland Northeast Cavaliers before transferring to C.A. Johnson in 2021.
His introduction to the Green Hornets included teammates Isom Harris, Ce Ce Bailey, Jarick Peterson, and Travon Riley.
“They showed me what I shouldn’t do and what I should do,” Pearson said. “They were role models at the time. They gave me a chance to grow up. I appreciate the maturity that I came up with during my career.”
That season C.A. Johnson went 6-4 and came within nine points of winning the Region 2-A title.
Big changes were in store for Pearson and the Green Hornets in 2022. With Harris graduating, along with some of the receivers, second-year head coach Scotty Dean was in search of players to run his passing style of offense.
Heading into the season, Dean chose DeJaylin Jacobs to be the quarterback because he added a running dimension. However, it turned out Jacobs was better suited to be a wide receiver than a quarterback. That was when Dean turned to Pearson.
“Caleb was one of the best players on the team,” Dean said. “We had to get the ball in his hands a lot. He’s a tough kid. He’s a three sport athlete––basketball, football, and track. It was a no brainer. We wanted to get him the ball more. We made the decision and went with it.”
Dean said he didn’t have to do a lot of convincing for Pearson to make the position change.
“He’s one of the best kids for a high school coach to coach,” Dean said. “You can ask him to do anything, and he’ll try his best to do it. He’s been the quarterback, cornerback, punter, punt returner, and kick returner. He doesn’t come off the field. He’s a tough kid. He’s a good kid. Our offense, our team goes as he goes. There is no secret to that.”
Pearson said there was a transition period.
“It took me some time to adjust,” Pearson said. “Our game planning has made it easier.”
He said his previous experience as a running back has helped make him successful in the Green Hornets’ run based scheme. He credits his wide receivers for blocking and his offensive line for opening holes.
Pearson said when he knows he’s going to run the ball, he’s aware of his smaller stature. He tries to beat the defenders to the outside, make a couple of moves, get as many yards as he can, and then get out of bounds.
For Dean, any time he sees Pearson run is a tense moment.
“I hold my breath every play,” Dean said. “It’s a fine line. I want to tell him to slide or run out of bounds, but that isn’t his deal. I can tell him to get out of bounds, but I look up and he’s run for a 60 or 70-yard touchdown. He’s not a traditional quarterback. He’s more of an athlete playing quarterback. He definitely takes a pounding, and I hold my breath every time.”
C.A. Johnson went 7-5 overall and 3-1 in Region 3-A in 2022. Again, the Green Hornets fell one game short of the region title. Pearson shined in his role at quarterback running for 1,597 yards and 16 touchdowns on 171 attempts.
One area he continues to work on is his passing. In 2022, he completed 27-of-54 passes for 463 yards and six touchdowns. So far this year, he’s completed 15-of-49 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Pearson said he worked over the summer with some former teammates on his accuracy and distance.
One thing that has affected his passing numbers is the youth on the team. C.A. Johnson’s leading receiver Samuel Farmer, five catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns, is a sophomore.
Youth isn’t just an issue at wide receiver but throughout the Green Hornets’ roster. Pearson is the only senior. That by itself has made him the default leader. However, it is a title he has earned.
“The biggest thing is having a bunch of young players that watch everything he does,” Dean said. “It doesn’t phase him. He does the same things kids do. He treats them like people. He knows they look up to him. He’s a good guy to lead this program. You wouldn’t notice he’s any different than the rest of the guys seeing him around school.”
“All my life I’ve been a leader,” Pearson said. “I’m a humble guy, respectful. I like being a role model. I speak with my talent, the way I carry myself, and how I play the game.
“I make sure the guys keep their heads up. If they are doing wrong, I let them know. I get on them and make sure they aren’t acting up. They listen and respect me.”
It isn’t hard to respect a player who doesn’t come off the field.
“Again, all my life I’ve been playing both ways,” Pearson said. “Last year I got back to where I used to be. I stayed in shape. I ran on the weekends. I kept my body healthy to get ready for Friday nights.”
So far in 2023, C.A. Johnson has posted a 4-2 record. The Green Hornets will face their toughest test of the season Friday, September 29 when they host the Lewisville Lions, who are 5-1 on the season. They haven’t given up a point in their last five ball games and have scored 43 or more points during that stretch.
Lewisville defeated C.A. Johnson 16-0 last year, a game that ended up deciding the region title.
“I worry about our offense,” Pearson said. “I have to keep my hands on the ball and not turn the ball over. We have to move the ball.
“I’m not worried about defense. We had it under control last year. Lewisville scored on our mistakes last year.”
“Last year he wasn’t the full time quarterback until Week 3,” Dean said. “Then he played his biggest game in Week 6 or 7. That experience was great for him. We would have obviously liked to win the game, but it was big for him. We had a lot of young players last year, too. We know what to expect. A lot of people know if you don’t stop Caleb, you probably aren’t going to beat us. We need to get other guys going.”
Unlike last year, this year’s game is at Bolden Stadium.
“We have some momentum. We are on a two-game winning streak,” Pearson said. “We feel good about ourselves. Traveling there was hard for us. Getting our energy back was difficult. This year hopefully we can come out on top.”
Pearson said last year’s loss and his desire to win a region title has served as motivation for this week’s contest. For the Green Hornets. Johnson to have a chance Friday, they will need another big performance from Pearson.
“ When I see him come out, I panic,” Dean said. “He knows he’s our guy. Everyone else knows he’s our guy. The importance of having Caleb on the field is like having an alpha. I don’t care who we play or what they have, we know we have one of the best players on the field on any given Friday.”
Pearson said along with winning a region and state championship, his goal is to reach 2,000 rushing yards by the end of the regular season. Through six games, he’s rushed for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns on 115 carries. He also wants to get his receivers more involved.