TEXARKANA, Tx (KTAL/KMSS) – Playing for the Pleasant Grove Hawks is a little different that playing for anyone else.
“I wouldn’t even say a cult, but we want to be so close that’s what it seems like,” said junior defensive lineman Victor Shaw. And from one look at practice, this is as close a team as you’ll find across the state. Strengthening the team bond was something Head Coach and Hawk’s Athletic Director Josh Gibson wanted his team to focus on this off-season.
“For them to create the perfect culture, it starts with relationships,” said Coach Gibson. “Because we all make each other better. And they’re buying into that.”
It’s no stretch to say that Pleasant Grove’s culture is what sets the team apart. Two state championships since 2017 and deep playoff runs every season don’t come by accident.
“We put the past behind. We talk about how our culture has been established and we don’t want the light to burn out,” said Coach Gibson. Sophomore quarterback Ahkari Johnson agrees. “Step on the field, as a Hawk, you give your heart and soul, every-time you step on the field you give it your all every play.”
This fall, the Hawks will have to replace three D-1 guys in Landon Jackson, Marcus Burris, and Nick Martin. With only two starters returning on both offense and defense and a schedule that has state ranked teams in Argyle and Carthage, the Hawks’ youth will be tested early.
“Our young kids are going to have to grow up fast,” said Coach Gibson. Probably going to learn some lessons along the way.”
But with underclassmen like running back Jaylen Boardley, who already has offers from Baylor, Houston, and UTSA, and quarterback Ahkari Johnson, the Hawks aren’t expecting to miss a beat.
“Ahkari Johnson is the most athletic quarterback I’ve coached to date,” said Coach Gibson. “Speed, power, he has it all. He has a great arm.”
“I feel like I bring a lot of leadership, a lot of excitement. I feel like I’m a big time player,” said Johnson.
With the Hawks’ culture, the future will surely look similar to their championship past.