Gordon Johnston had his attention divided Saturday between his past and his present.
Johnston was in Williamsburg cheering for his grandson, Grant Johnston, Blacksburg’s sophomore quarterback. The Blacksburg Bruins were playing Staunton River for the Virginia High School League Group 3A football state championship.
Meanwhile, about three-and-a-half hours to the west, Riverheads was also playing for a state football championship, facing Sussex Central in the 1A title game. Johnston, who spent 14 years as Riverheads’ athletic director, was receiving updates by telephone from Steve Kyle.
Both Blacksburg and Riverheads won, making Saturday a pretty sweet day for Johnston.
“I had a really good weekend,” he said. “That was really good stuff.”
One of the titles was expected. The other wasn’t.
Johnston stays in close contact with people from Riverheads, including the head coach Robert Casto. After watching Riverheads in August at the school’s football jamboree, Johnston knew the Gladiators were going to be good this season. Casto had told him that last year’s trip to the state championship game was probably a case of the team overachieving just a little, but this year Riverheads was expected to be in Salem.
But Blacksburg was 2-4 after six games this season. The Bruins rallied to finish the regular season 5-5, but had to go on the road for all of its playoff games after landing a 10th seed in the playoffs.
By late Saturday afternoon both teams were celebrating state championships. And Johnston couldn’t have been any happier.
Grant Johnston threw a pair of touchdown passes against Staunton River and finished the day with 166 yards on seven complete passes. It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows the family that Grant is a quality quarterback. His dad, Chad, was the quarterback for West Virginia University in the mid 1990s, throwing for almost 6,000 yards.
You would think there would be pressure on the high school quarterback to win it all again next year after winning a state title as a sophomore. His granddad said that if there is the pressure it won’t affect him.
“He’s kind of a laid-back kind of a guy,” Johnston said. “He doesn’t seem like things like that bother him too much.”
While Gordon Johnston can take some credit for Blacksburg’s success because he passed some athletic genes down the line, he can probably take even more credit for Riverheads success. Johnston hired Casto at Riverheads. Saturday was the coach’s fourth state championship since 2000.
Said Johnston, “It’s turned out pretty good.”
So did Saturday for Johnston.