Largo creates some buzz; Northwestern looks to Johnson on defense

September 24, 2012

Largo began creating buzz with its performance on the summer 7-on-7 circuit. The Lions — led by senior quarterback Chris Thomas — finished fourth at the Prince George’s County Football Coaches Association Passing League tournament in June and backed that up with a strong showing at a larger tournament at the University of Maryland in July, advancing farther than any other county team.

“It was surreal,” Coach David Fant said. “I always knew if I was able to get those guys together, there was something special about that crew.”

The momentum has carried over to the season for Largo, which improved to 2-2 with a 34-20 win over previously unbeaten Forestville on Friday. Thomas — who started every game as a sophomore but did not play last season — had two rushing touchdowns and a passing score, and senior Dimonte Cosbert broke open a tie game with a pair of fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns.

Fant said word of his team’s strong showing over the summer circulated in the community and helped bring out more players than in recent seasons. Thomas — who Fant called “a spokesperson for the program” — also aided those recruiting efforts.

Largo had just 18 healthy varsity players as it finished up 2011 with a 3-7 record, but the Lions started off the season with 33 players on the varsity roster. They also have 34 players in the junior varsity program.

Even when Largo opened with a pair of losses, Fant was encouraged because he saw a more competitive effort against traditional powers C.H. Flowers and Douglass than in the recent past. The moral victories turned into real ones the past two weeks, as the Lions knocked off 1A schools Surattsville (3-1, 1-1) and Forestville (3-1, 1-1) in succession.

“With these last two wins, I think they’re starting to see it and starting to believe,” Fant said. “Once they believe it, I think you’ll really start to see the change.” ...

There are no longer any unbeaten teams left in Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A. Largo stopped Forestville’s perfect run, and Crossland lost at Gwynn Park, 40-0. Senior Joseph Hayman finished with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown on eight carries and added a punt return score for the Yellow Jackets (3-1, 3-1). Eight of the 10 teams in the league have one loss in league play, and five of those squads are 3-1 overall. That includes defending Maryland 2A runner-up Douglass (3-1, 2-1), which bounced back from a blowout loss at Gwynn Park with a resounding 42-0 win over Potomac (Md.) (1-2, 2-2) on Saturday.

Johnson makes plays for Northwestern

There had been little question this season as to the identity of Northwestern’s defensive leader. Senior safety John Johnson, who orally committed to Boston College in July, entered the fall as the Wildcats’ go-to source of production.

Prior to Friday night, there had been just one problem.

“We’ve been giving him a hard time,” Northwestern Coach Bryan Pierre said following the Wildcats’ 19-14 upset victory Friday over then-No. 7 C.H. Flowers. “He’s been making some plays, but we said, ‘When are you going to show up?’ Tonight he showed up.”

No. 17 Northwestern (4-0) held a 19-0 lead late in the third quarter when Flowers drove into the Wildcats’ red zone. On first and 10 from the Northwestern 18-yard line, Flowers senior receiver Larry Smith lined up wide right. Wildcats senior cornerback Quaezhawn Alfred didn’t locate Smith immediately and was rushing in Smith’s direction when the ball was snapped. Noticing the confusion, Johnson headed that way, as well.

“I thought it was going to be a touchdown,” Johnson said.

Flowers senior quarterback Roman Williams lofted a pass intended for Smith near the goal line. The ball hit Smith’s hands and was knocked loose by Alfred.

Johnson said the ball “popped into the air, and I just dove for it.”

He intercepted the ball at the two-yard line, extinguishing another Flowers scoring threat.

That was the pattern for most of the night for the Northwestern defense: Give up a big play; answer almost immediately with one of its own. The Wildcats forced three turnovers Friday. Two of them came after plays in which Flowers had gained more than 20 yards. Williams had scrambled for a 29-yard run the play before Johnson’s interception.

Johnson and the Northwestern defense will need to be equally stout Saturday at No. 11 Wise (4-0). The Wildcats never have beaten Wise in five tries. In fact, Northwestern has not scored against the Pumas in its past three tries.

The Wise defense – which has given up 14 points through four games and allowed just seven rushing yards Saturday in a 51-14 win over Bowie – will have to stop Northwestern senior running back Darius Victor, who has tallied 685 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.

But the Wildcats have a few other offensive weapons, as well, including Johnson, who recorded three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown Friday.

Flowers “had been talking all week, ‘Just stop Darius. Just stop Darius,’” Pierre said. “We needed other guys to make big plays, and we were able to make ’em.”

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