Downing begins Aces football career
By David Gough
Thursday, August 9, 2018
EDENTON — Two years ago, Keenan Downing had a pretty good showing in his first season at the high school football level in this area.
The then-freshman led Perquimans football with 343 receiving yards on 29 receptions. He even played a very small amount of quarterback for the 6-6 Pirates completing 11 of 19 passes with a touchdown.
Downing surprised himself with his impressive freshman season.
“Yes, I really was surprised,” Downing said. “Some people say as a freshman, you have to be top-notch to be able to start. But as long as you just keep working hard, they’re going to put you in.”
The wide receiver transferred to John A. Holmes after his freshman year. This year, as a junior, will be his first season back on the field as he wasn’t eligible to play with the Aces last season due to transfer rules.
He’s an exciting addition for coach Paul Hoggard and his team to have.
“Tremendous athlete,” Hoggard said, entering his fourth year as the John A. Holmes coach. “He really catches the ball well, runs well and jumps well.”
The big reason for the move was that Downing already knows several players on the team. He has played with them before. His uncle, Andy Downing, is also an assistant coach for the Aces.
Edenton is where Downing participated in midget and recreation league football. He remained close with all the guys he played with ever since.
Downing acknowledged that he and junior quarterback Mitjonta Stanley have been friends with each other for a while.
“We grew up together. He’s like a brother to me,” Downing said, excited to be on the receiving end of Stanley’s passes this year.
Downing joins a football program that reached a state championship and regional championship the last two seasons. The triple-option offense has proved very difficult to stop for most teams with the amount of points the Aces tend to put up per game.
But with star running back Keimon Bailey graduated, adding Downing as a receiver to an already solid group of skill players could help Hoggard’s offense stay at the same pace it’s been for the last few years.
The coach thinks Downing will be an integral part of this year’s team.
“Big plays,” he said. “Being able to block on the perimeter so we can run the option, and making big plays in the passing game. He’s one of the best outside threats since I’ve been here.”
After a mandated year away from playing high school football due to the transfer, Downing is ready to get going again.
Even though he wasn’t on the roster, he was still able to learn a little bit from the coaching staff.
“(Not playing) was kind of hard,” Downing said. “But they just told me some of the pass plays we were planning on doing and how I’d be used on the offensive side of the ball.”
It’s another season with high expectation for the Aces. Downing is confident that the team can make another deep playoff run if they play like he knows they can.
At the same time, it’s a different set of expectations for Downing himself as he’s now an upperclassman who’s proven he can play at the high school level already. He’s finally back on the field with a chance to build on what he’s already done.
“More things are going to be expected of me,” Downing said. “Just have to go out there and show out.”