THE MONDAY MORNING REWIND
Looking back at the players, plays and games that caught our attention over the weekend. Let us know what you saw and heard.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson committed to the Tennessee Volunteers this past Friday afternoon. Then he hopped on a school bus with his Gainesville High teammates and ran roughshod over rival North Hall a couple of hours later.
Best known for wreaking havoc on defense from his inside linebacker position, Johnson made his presence known on offense in this game. I got to witness his work firsthand as part of the broadcast team for the Channel 2 Sports Zone Game of the Week between Gainesville and North Hall.
After taking just two snaps as the “Wild Elephant” in Gainesville’s shotgun spread offense in the first half, Johnson spent almost the entire second half on offense. He finished with 17 carries for 192 yards and scored all three touchdowns in the Red Elephants’ 20-13 victory at The Brickyard.
“One of the most dominating performances I’ve ever seen,” coach Bruce Miller said.
Football is the ultimate team sport, but Johnson was unquestionably the difference in the game. Running a simple option-read play to the left or right, North Hall defenders struggled to bring down the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Johnson as he kept the clock and the chains the moving in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory. What’s more, Johnson never came off the field in the second half. In addition controlling the middle from his inside linebacker position, Johnson also played on Gainesville’s kick-coverage teams.
“I got a little tired but I can do that all season if they need me to,” he said. “I hope they do. I enjoyed it.”
As for committing to Tennessee, that was a bit of a surprise, too. Not the fact that he decided to go with the Vols — he committed to them as a junior before Lane Kiffin left for Southern Cal — but the timing of it. Earlier in the week Johnson said he planned to take all five of his official visits.
“I’ve been liking them the most,” Johnson said of the Vols. “It was between Tennessee and Florida and I just kept contemplating it. I prayed about it and decided I was ready to commit to Tennessee. But I might still take a couple of visits.”
Johnson committed to UT assistant coach Chuck Smith on the phone Friday as they discussed plans for his visit. On Saturday, Johnson spent the day in Knoxville for the Tennessee-Florida game.
“I know Florida may be a better team than Tennessee right now,” he said “But I’m looking to the future and I just like Tennessee better. I enjoy it every time I go up there and I really like the coaches.”
Carver’s Isaiah Crowell, Gabe Wright rock on
Carver-Columbus tailback Isaiah Crowell continued his impressive run through his senior season and this time his good work was captured for a national television audience. Crowell gained 185 yards on 27 carries and scored all three touchdowns for the Tigers as they defeated LaGrange 21-3 in a game carried on ESPNU.
For those keeping count, that’s 743 yards on 67 carries in four games for Crowell. That’s an average of 11.1 yards per carry.
Later this weekend, LaGrange coach Steve Pardue told the Todd Holcomb of the AJC and Georgia High School Football Daily that Crowell was probably the best player at any position he’s faced in 20 years at LaGrange, including Quincy Carter and his LaGrange’s own Bruce Thornton.
Without prompting, Pardue added: “Gabe Wright ain’t far behind him either. I thought he had a phenomenal game against us. He’s 297 pounds and real athletic.’’
Pardue was asked what impressed you about Wright?
“We couldn’t block him all game. Other than that, he didn’t impress me at all. On our second drive, we had a guy open for a touchdown, and he knocked it down [from the line of scrimmage]. To be that big and athletic, that’s tough.’’
Thanks to Austin Brown, no drop off for Flowery Branch
Last week we talked about how there hadn’t been much drop off for Calhoun High despite the loss of the record-setting quarterback/wide receiver combination of Nash Nance and Da’Rick Rogers. Well, the same can be said about Flowery Branch.
Despite the graduation of all-state quarterback Connor Shaw, the Falcons are still racking up big offensive numbers. That’s because of the play of quarterback Austin Brown, who transferred in from Habersham County after last season.
In a win over Cedar Shoals this past weekend, Brown was 12-of-20 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, Brown has passed for 886 yards and 8 touchdowns with no interceptions for the 4-0 Falcons.
Meanwhile, Shaw continues to get significant playing time as a true freshman at South Carolina. He was 4-of-5 for 42 yards and had 22 yards rushing on four carries in the Gamecocks’ win over Furman this past Saturday.
Etc. . . .
C.J. Uzomah continues to get it done from all over the field for North Gwinnett. Playing both quarterback and wide receiver, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Auburn commitment had four receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns, went 4-of-4 passing for 39 yards and had four rushes for 22 yards in the Bulldogs’ win over Collins Hill. Quarterback Scotty Hosch was 13-of-14 for 226 yards and three touchdowns in the game. . . .
Valdosta’s two major college prospects had major impacts in the Wildcats’ 64-62 overtime win over Brunswick. Five-star tight end Jay Rome had 5 catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Mitchell, a four-star defensive back who also plays wide receiver at Valdosta, had five catches for 196 yards and two TDs. The teams combined for 1,165 yards offense. . . .
Stephenson graduate Raymond Sanders scored his third touchdown in three games with a 28-yard scoring run in Kentucky’s win over Akron. . . . North Paulding WR Chris Conley had seven catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. . . . Kell’s Brian Randolph scored the winning touchdown on a 34-yard run with 35 seconds left in a 20-13 win over East Paulding. . . . Aaron Wimberly had 350 all-purpose yards in South Gwinnett’s 62-27 win over Central Gwinnett, including a 97-yard kickoff return. . . . Austin Hardin kicked a 59-yard game-winning field goal with three seconds left for Marist.