Johnathan Bates has been the starting quarterback for the Hudson Catholic football team for the last four seasons. No signal caller in Hudson County has more varsity experience. He’s been the man for the Hawks since he put the pads on for the first time at McGinley Square.
As the calendar turns into November, Bates knows that his time with the Hawks is winding down to the last precious few moments.
“That’s the first thing that pops up into my head,” Bates said. “I want to go out with a bang. I want to leave my mark. It’s now or never. It’s definitely in my mind that I only have a few games left.”
Hudson Catholic head coach Lou Zampella also recognizes that fact; that his time coaching the talented signal caller is coming to an end.
“He definitely knows that,” Zampella said. “He’s played a lot for us. He knows that this is his last hurrah. But Johnathan is a self motivated kid. He doesn’t need to be told that the end is near.”
Zampella said that he leaves Bates alone with his offense.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Johnathan,” Zampella said. “It’s not just his skills. It’s all the things that he does.”
Two weeks ago, the Hawks suffered an excruciating loss to DePaul Catholic, which was the No. 1-ranked team in the state at the time.
“That definitely was a tough one,” Bates said. “We had to get our wind back. We had to get back on track.”
So the Hawks traveled to Denville to face Morris Catholic, a surprising team with four victories this season. The Hawks are battling for the precious power points in order to secure a home game in the upcoming NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 and 3 state playoffs.
“That’s the most important thing right now,” Bates said. “We want to get home field advantage.”
With that in mind, Bates had perhaps the best game of his storied high school career against Morris Catholic, completing 14-of-18 passes for 240 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Hawks to a huge 52-14 victory.
With that performance, Bates eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for his career, becoming the only Hudson Catholic passer to ever reach that milestone.
For his efforts, Bates has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Bates said that he had worked very hard to get ready for his senior campaign, training with Hudson Catholic assistant coach Chris Johnston, who has also spent time working with St. Peter’s Prep standout quarterback Maasai Maynor.
“That’s my boy,” Bates said of Maynor. “We had several training sessions together. I think that helped me a lot working with him. I was throwing the ball better and felt better.”
“Coach Johnston worked intensely with Johnathan,” Zampella said. “It’s incredible now because Johnathan now knows where he’s going with the ball before it’s snapped. He reads the defense and knows where he’s going with it. Not a lot of high school quarterbacks can do that. He’s done tireless work with Coach Johnston and it’s paying off.”
Zampella said having a polished quarterback like Bates goes a long way.
“It takes a lot of pressure off me and everyone,” Zampella said. “He’s so underrated with the things he does. He does things that don’t get noticed. I think the biggest thing in Johnathan’s development is his brain. His mind is the most important part.”
Bates said that he just had a strong feeling about the Morris Catholic game.
“I felt good about my teammates,” Bates said of players like Amarrie Boldenand Donnell Adams, who both caught two touchdowns from Bates in the win. “They made some big plays. I felt like I got into a rhythm and got them the ball. The ball was coming out of my hand good. It was a career setting day.”
Bolden actually scored three touchdowns on the day, two on passes from Bates and the third via a 47-yard interception return for a score. Bolden caught passes of 55 and 49 yards respectively from Bates.
“I had a lot of fun,” Bates said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year. I had a lot of great moments here that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Of course, I made a name for myself a little bit.”
While Bates has enjoyed a fine level of success, he hasn’t exactly won over the college recruiters just yet. His friend Maynor has a deal with the United States Naval Academy, but Bates has nothing. His size – or lack thereof – at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds – is hurting his chances.
“It’s very frustrating,” Bates said. “I know I can compete with the best in the state, but I’m not getting the chance at college. I think my size is the only thing holding me back. I’m hoping someone notices me.”
It’s certainly not grades. Bates is maintaining a solid 3.0 grade point average and will take the Scholastic Aptitude Tests again this month to try to improve his scores there.
“We’ll find him a good spot,” Zampella said. “We don’t know where he’s going, but we’ll get him somewhere. To his credit, he realized the importance of having good grades, so he’s worked very hard in the class room. I think we try to convince every kid, but Johnathan saw the light and takes pride in his schoolwork. It’s been a big difference in him.”
According to Zampella, as a quarterback, Bates has no peers.
“He’s physically gotten bigger, faster and stronger,” Zampella said. “He has so much experience. He’s truly taken it to another level with his leadership. You can see it every time he steps on the field. He works well with the younger kids.”
Added Zampella, “He’s just an A-plus kid. You wish you had 22 kids like him. I think he’s right up there with the best quarterbacks we’ve ever had. He’s right up there with the best, if not the best.”
Bates is also good friends with another talented quarterback, namely Snyder senior Jahleel Baker. The two were teammates for the Jersey City PAL program headed by Rex Turso.
“That’s my boy, too,” Bates said of Baker. “But at that time, he was a lineman and I was the quarterback.”
It’s safe to say that Johnathan Bates is always the quarterback. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.