A quarterback is known as the leader, the field general, the one that carries the weight of the entire team on his shoulders. This year, though, R.A. Hubbard quarterback DJ Wiggins is carrying, not just the weight of his team, but the entire community on his shoulders.
Flash back to November of last year, Hubbard closed the season with a disappointing loss to East Lawrence to finish 5-5. It was well below the mark that had been set at the beginning of the season when expectations were they would improve on 2018s 8-3 record and vie for an area championship and a deep playoff run.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
“5-5 was definitely not what we had in mind,” Wiggins said. “Our expectations were high, and to end like that, it was disappointing.”
Normally, the offseason would be spent working hard towards righting the wrongs of the disappointing season. But towards the end of winter and spring, players found themselves no longer just fighting for their team, but their school.
Rumors began to surface in February that there was a possibility that R.A. Hubbard would close down due to declining enrollment and test scores.
For many Hubbard players, including Wiggins, it was a difficult time to endure.
“I feel like that they don’t really know our potential,” he said. “If we do close down that could change our lives. We may not have a way out.”
The community rallied around the school and last Wednesday it opened, along with the other three county high schools, for their first day of school.
Still, they aren’t out of the woodworks yet as nothing past the 2020-21 school year is set in stone. It will be up to the students, teachers and community to help turn things around to ensure Hubbard remains open for years to come.
Student-athletes at the school are well aware of this, but they feel as though it won’t just be the work in the classroom, but their work on the field as well that will help keep the school open.
Courtland has a rich tradition, especially when it comes to the Gridiron, with five state championships in the program history.
It’s a similar tradition to Hazlewood, which is located just down the road and unfortunately closed down in 2008.
Hubbard players have watched the old Hazlewood football field and gym become old and weathered and the school’s tradition become somewhat of a distant memory.
While Hubbard is not technically Courtland High School anymore, the tradition is still there and it’s not something the players want to see happen to their school.
“That’s why we have to come out hard this season. To prove a point,” Wiggins said. “We want to prove we belong at R.A. Hubbard.”
To do that, Wiggins will need to take the next step as quarterback, and finally help the Chiefs become a legitimate threat through the air.
“Last year, my first year starting, was a little bit of a whirlwind. I think I tried too hard not to mess up,” said Wiggins. “This year I feel more comfortable. I understand the plays and the offense. And with the weapons we have I really believe we can become a threat passing the ball.”
Expectations aren’t as high for the Chiefs this year, but that’s just the way Wiggins and his teammates like it.
“That 5-5 season left us unranked and a lot of people are overlooking us,” he said. “But I like it. It makes us the underdogs. Sometimes the underdogs are the most dangerous.”