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Justice quarterback Juan Pablo is aiming to lead the Phoenix this season.
Justice quarterback Juan Pablo is aiming to lead the Phoenix this season.


LAFAYETTE — Last year, Juan Pablo Quintana exemplified just how challenging it is to field a competitive football team at the Justice Charter School.

This year, Quintana hopes to exemplify the difference the Justice program strives to make with its corps of young athletes who often are in dire need of a new direction.

Justice typically is a destination for students who encounter academic or disciplinary issues at other schools, a sort of last-chance stop for those still clinging to the hope of getting an education to better their lives. Quintana, a sophomore, hopes football can help keep him on the straight-and-narrow.

“It’s motivation. Football is what I want to do and that’s my life,” Quintana said. “One day hopefully I’d like to play college ball. Practice is a place I can come and not have to worry about anything. It’s me and my team, and we’re on the field and we’re doing our thing. That’s my outlet.”

After witnessing the superior athleticism Quintana was displaying all across the field during the first few games last year, Justice head coach T.J. Cole decided to move the then-freshman to quarterback.

In his first game under center, Quintana shined. However, it would be a short-lived renaissance. Legal woes spurred Quintana to pull a disappearing act, robbing him of the second half of the season. Yet he has returned this year with a refocused attitude and a tremendous weight lifted from his shoulders.

“Unfortunately last year (Quintana) didn’t get to finish out the season, but this year hopefully he gets it done,” Justice assistant coach Jeremy Jimenez said. “Hopefully he stays in school and gets it done. He’s been fantastic on the football field so far. He’s a leader on the football field. We’ll see if the rest of his life falls into place.”

Justice, which moves into the I-25 Division of the 8-man North Conference this season, struggled through a 1-4 campaign last year but did so with a group comprised mostly of freshmen. Those freshmen are sophomores now, and while they remain young, Justice may be that rare team that boasts both youth and experience.

Led by Quintana, the Phoenix should be fast and athletic at the skill positions. Justice will feature a speedy backfield with Quintana, junior Ray Gonzalez, and senior Michael Chunn, while sophomore receiver Jesus Coss will provide Quintana with a solid target through the air.

“We’re going to have a strong team,” Quintana said. “Last year we had a lot of freshmen, so it was a lot harder. It was a good learning experience, though. We all came together in the end. We got our beat up a few times, but I think that all will help us to be stronger this year.”

Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07