On his first play as a varsity starter, in a high-profile Week 1 game at Fort Zumwalt North, Battle quarterback Justin Goolsby mishandled a snap from the center.
The result was a massive loss of yardage.
Later in the same game, Goolsby threw what could have been a game-sealing interception. He was a factor in the hole the Spartans dug that night — and a catalyst in their climb out of it to win 36-35.
That opportunity to guide an offense and lead a team is what drew Goolsby to QB in the first place.
“I’ve always assumed a leadership role in sports since I was young,” he said. “Just being in the middle of everything is something that I have always relished.”
Four weeks later, the leadership has not changed but his comfort in first-year head coach Jonah Dubinski’s offense has. The junior has thrown for nine touchdowns on the season and has cleared 270 yards in back-to-back games, as Battle has gotten off to a 2-1 start.
“I am taking what the defense gives me,” Goolsby said. “I work hard in practice, and I have so many talented guys around me that the more we are together, the better we get.”
His head coach agrees.
“Every single rep he takes, he continues to get better,” Dubinski said after the Spartans’ Week 2 loss to Helias. “Whether it is in the weight room or watching film, he is going to give it his all.”
The journey to being the starting quarterback at Columbia’s premier high school football program has been a slow process. In fact, Goolsby has been working on his craft since kindergarten under the tutelage of another signalcaller, his dad.
“I really grew up watching my father,” he said. “When I was growing up, he was still doing his own football thing. He played at a couple of different community colleges and it was just watching him.
“He worked really hard, and that was something I looked up to.”
It was his dad, Tyree, who taught Goolsby how to throw a football. His smooth flick-of-the-wrist release allows him to sling the ball down the field and create big plays for Battle. That motion has also been helped by his other athletic endeavor, basketball, where Goolsby is one of the state’s top small forwards in the class of 2023.
“The flick-of-the-wrist shooting a basketball and throwing the football is kind of the same motion,” he said. “The better I get on the court is going to lead to me being better on the football field, so they play off one another.”
This week, Goolsby and the Spartans will take on Poplar Bluff in a clash of two teams with Class 5 playoff hopes. Battle will look to grab consecutive victories for the first time in 2021, while the Mules are trying to improve to 4-1.
As always with the Spartans, the game likely will come down to execution. That’s what Dubinski has been preaching to his team since he took the job this summer.
“Execution is going to be the key,” he said. “I trust our game plan, and I love where we are going into the game.”