M.L. King coach Michael Carson saw the potential in quarterback Jonquel Dawson two years ago when both were at Avondale.
Since Carson took the head coaching job at M.L. King earlier this summer and Dawson transferred to the school, Carson has surrounded his quarterback with plenty of tools to help him reach that potential—an offensive coordinator who knows how to develop quarterbacks; a deep group of experienced receivers; and the confidence necessary to find success in the complex spread offense.
It’s only two games into the season, but Dawson and the Lions’ offense have set the bar high. In two games, Dawson has passed for more than 700 yards, with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Leading receiver Demarco Robinson has 18 catches for 454 yards and seven touchdowns.
Receivers Blake Tibbs and Kevin Byard, among others, also have benefited from Dawson’s fast start with touchdown receptions.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Carson said of his quarterback. “He’s still learning the offense but he’s working hard.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kenton Evans, who played at Memphis University, is making sure of that. Evans was at Towers last season and helped develop quarterback Miles Gooch, now on scholarship at Virginia.
“I’ve been very tough on him,” Evans said. “I want him to understand that being a quarterback in this system is not easy. I’m going to push him to the limit because I know he’s got it in him to succeed.”
Though Dawson is much smaller than Gooch—5-10 and 185 pounds compared to 6-4 and 215 pounds—both have similar work ethics.
“The chemistry was there with coach Evans from the start,” Dawson said. “He pushes me like I didn’t know I could be pushed. I learn something new every day. I know if I do it, things will work out just like he tells me.”
Dawson has spent time watching game film, learning in the classroom and on the field to grasp the offense. M.L. King participated in several passing league tournaments over the summer to prepare for the season.
With the loss of Florida signee Mack Brown, who was one of the top rushers in the state last season, Carson knew the strength of the offense was the passing game this season. Along with Dawson, the Lions have at least four receivers who are being scouted by Division I colleges.
“We went to so many passing leagues and worked on our passing game even after practice that we had great teamwork this summer,” Dawson said. “Everybody knows everybody’s strengths and weaknesses. So far, things have just transferred from the passing leagues to the regular season.”
Carson first noticed Dawson’s ability when Dawson was in middle school. He threw for 1,400 yards as a freshman at Avondale, then last year the Blue Devils focused mostly on the running game with Max Thompson, who earned a scholarship to Valdosta State.
“Jonquel started 10 games as a freshman at Avondale and had more than 1,400 yards passing. He threw a lot of balls. I knew from the time he was in eighth grade that he had a strong arm and could throw the ball.”
This year Dawson is trying not to pay attention to the numbers.
“I’m trying to stay grounded and work as hard as I did the day before,” Dawson said. “I don’t even talk about last week so it won’t be on my mind.”
He credits Evans for his fast start this season.
“I haven’t ever had anyone who can break [the offense] down like coach Evans,” Dawson said. “He’s on a whole different level. He breaks down everything and makes it simple for me.”