SPRINGDALE – When asked about how it felt losing the 4A South regional final to Eleanor Roosevelt High School at home last season, you could see Charles H. Flowers High School quarterback Julius Duvall clutch the ball tighter leaving an imprint in it while his nails repeatedly dug into the pigskin.
He put his head down and starting bobbing back-and-forth like it was a pregame ritual to get ready for battle as he was reliving the catastrophic loss and then raised his head up with a look of sheer determination.
“It gives us something to work for but it hurt,” Duvall said about the crushing defeat. “We wished that we could have done a lot of things better, but we know what we have to do and we have a different mentality now. The state championship is our main goal and that’s all we preach so that is what we’re fighting for.”
Despite the loss, Duvall’s leadership on the field is unparalleled according to Flowers Head Coach Dameon Powell and during the offseason, he gave the second-year starter the ability to change any play call at the line of scrimmage showing extreme confidence in the signal callers decisions.
“He is now being the leader that I really want him to be, he is controlling the offense, making adjustments at the line of scrimmage and now he has full reign in our offense to call plays,” Powell said of Duvall.
And why wouldn’t he? Duvall split time with senior quarterback Russell Gant Jr. and eventually took over the starting role leading into the 2017-2018 football campaign.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Duvall excelled throwing for nearly 1,400 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air and he rushed for five touchdowns while leading the Jaguars to an undefeated regular season record (10-0).
One of the five-foot-eight, 143-pound quarterback’s signature performances was during the season opener where he threw five touchdowns.
“He’s a gamer, he’s a playmaker,” Powell said of Duvall. “He does exactly what we ask him to do and he wants to be great. When the game is on the line he is going to come through.”
The following game against Eleanor Roosevelt, Duvall boasted a 143.6 quarterback rating while accounting for four total touchdowns.
However, it was the second loss that stung the most against the Raiders in the playoffs, but Duvall has made strides during the off-season and is ready for the challenge again.
“Everything is starting to slow down for me so it is easier to analyze things I can see what is going to happen before it happens so it is easier for me to make more plays. The coaches really trust me now so they gave me the keys to the ship.”
He will have some help with returning wide receiver Daniel Buchanan in a situation where both seniors believe this season will be championship or bust.
Buchanan and Duvall have a special connection or “flow” on the field. Both playmakers said that they can look at each other during a play and know exactly where the ball needs to be without a spoken word being uttered.
“The connection that we have on the field is the same since we were on the field in 9th grade,” Buchanan said. “Sometimes I give him a look and he changes the play for me and the ball is where it needs to be where I can make a play.”
That chemistry on the field has been evident as Buchanan hauled in 23 receptions for 352 yards and averaged more than 15 yards per catch while finding the end zone four times last season using his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame to gain position over smaller defenders.
Duvall said he has been working on his accuracy during the offseason with Buchanan and some of the other young receivers. Buchanan said that he wants to be known as the best wide receiver to don a Jaguars uniform by the end of this season.
There is no question that the 27-point loss to Eleanor Roosevelt in the postseason still stings, but Powell, Duvall and the Jaguars will use it as motivation to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a 4A state title.
However, their first chance at having another unblemished regular season record will start on Aug. 31 against Patterson High School (Baltimore County) at home.
“We’re tired of being first-round knockouts,” Powell said about losing to Eleanor Roosevelt in the playoffs and moving forward. “We’re ready to move on to the next level and the score 34-7 is always on our mind so hopefully, we can move to higher heights.”