Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Jackson Coach Danny Powell knows a thing or two about winning state football championships having won four at nearby Leroy High and on Friday morning he told his star junior wide receiver, Jarren Johnson, it was his time to step up in the big game for the Aggies.
Johnson heard his coach and responded as he caught a Super Six 4A record 10 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He added 96 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to earn MVP honors in a 42-28 win over Oneonta.
“He was lights out,” Powell said of Johnson. “I told him this morning for us to win he was probably going to have to have a big game. I thought they were going to play a lot more man coverage than they actually did, but he made them in the zone.
"We put him in the wildcat and at running back and this spring we’re going to work on him at guard a little. Probably not, we’ll keep the ball in his hands.”
A powerful 6-0, 190 junior receiver with 4.5 speed, Johnson entered the game with 56 catches for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season for the Aggies, but when he was called upon to carry the load for the Tigers with tailback Ladarius Bowe banged up he said he just knew he had to do his part.
“It was a great opportunity to be able to play with a talented bunch like I’ve got,” Johnson said. “My quarterback Dustyn Moseley made some great throws and my line blocked well for me to be able to make the big plays that I did.”
Johnson goes up high for the touchdown grab.
In addition to Johnson defensive back Lakendrick James had a huge game for Jackson in the win. Picking off three passes and returning one 94 yards for a touchdown, James tied the Super Six record for interceptions in a game. They were all needed as Jackson had to hold off a stingy Oneonta team that just wouldn’t lay down.
It didn’t take long for Johnson and the Aggies to assert themselves in the 4A final. On the first drive of the game Jackson took over on its own 26-yard line and Bowe gained 15 quick yards on the ground to put the Redskins on their heels. Following another five-yard gain by Bowe, quarterback Moseley hit Johnson with a pass and he outraced the Oneonta defense for the 54-yard touchdown reception and the early lead.
Late in the first quarter the Jackson offense went back to work from its own eight-yard line. Receptions by Bowe for 12 yards and Johnson for 15 moved the ball out to the 35 to give the Aggies some room to operate. Another 11-yard catch by Johnson mixed with the running game moved the ball down to the Oneonta 25 at the start of the second quarter and again the junior receiver would make a play. In the wildcat formation he took the direct snap, made a man miss at the line of scrimmage, and raced into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
The Redskins would answer on their next possession and it would come via the big play. Starting the drive on the 21-yard line, Oneonta quarterback Schyler Walker completed a pass to Alvin Johnson for 18 yards, setting the stage for another big pass play. Dropping back Walker hit Taylor Oden crossing over the middle and he outran the Jackson defense for the touchdown to cut the Jackson lead to 14-7.
Jackson’s offense wasn’t slowing down however as the Aggies drove 62 yards for another touchdown to push the lead back to two touchdowns. Moseley capped it off with a one-yard run for the 21-7 advantage, but Jackson had more in the first half and it came from the defense. Starting on its own 30 with 3:16 left in the half Oneonta methodically drove down the field to the Jackson 31-yard line where Walker hit Johnson for 20 yards down to the 11.
With time winding down the Redskins threw two incomplete passes before going to the well one too many times. On third down James stepped in from of the pass at his own six and outran Oneonta for the 94-yard interception return for the touchdown. That gave Jackson a commanding 28-7 lead at the break, but this one was far from over.
Early in the third quarter Oneonta got a 33-yard punt return from Alvin Scott to the Jackson 31 and it took just three plays for the Redskins to strike again on another pass from Walker to Oden. Their second connection of the game cut the lead to 14, but Oneonta was far from done. Following a Johnson fumble at the 36-yard line of Oneonta the offense took over and ran a pair of trick plays to score quickly. The first was a 52-yard throwback to Walker to move the ball down to the 16. On the next play a reverse to Walker scored to make it 28-21 Jackson.
Oneonta completed the comeback just three minutes into the fourth quarter on a great play by Oneonta defensive end Aaron Martin. Jumping up he grabbed a Moseley pass and returned it 31 yards for the score. Fighting all the way back the Redskins now had all of the momentum, but Jackson took it back in a big way just moments later.
Taking over on their own 25 the Aggies dropped Moseley back to pass and the senior calmly moved in the pocket before spotting freshman Antonio Fox down the field. He hit the speedster in stride and he did the rest for a 75-yard score. That put Jackson back in front 35-28. A failed fake punt from its own 45 with 5:08 all but sealed Oneonta’s fate as moments later Moseley hit Johnson for a 17-yard score to make it 42-28 Jackson and give the Aggies their first title since 1979.
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