Broadneck running back
There's a problem here, though: Johnson doesn't want you to see him. He'd rather plow ahead for five- and six-yard gains, keep his mouth shut and convey the Bruins motto: The team is more important than the player.
But when Johnson runs like he did in the 24-14 win over then-undefeated Old Mill last Friday, he stands out above everyone else. Against the Patriots, Johnson ran 35 times for a career-high 251 yards and two touchdowns. In a head-to-head encounter with Maryland's top running back -- Old Mill's Ryan Callahan -- Johnson came out on top.
Johnson is the antithesis of Callahan, who ran for 198 yards Friday night. Callahan runs around defenders; Johnson plows through them. Callahan is flashy; Johnson is workmanlike.
"We're very different players," Johnson said. "He's way faster than me, but most people think I still get the job done."
Include Old Mill Coach Mike Marcus on that list. Marcus watched his normally stout run defense cave against Johnson in the second half. The 210-pound back carried 11 times in the fourth quarter, and four of those rushes resulted in first downs.
"They unleashed a thoroughbred," Marcus said. "When you've got a pony, you ride him until he stops. Well, that's what they did against us."
Said Broadneck Coach Jeff Herrick: "He picked it up a level. We knew we were going to rely on him. It seemed like the more carries he got, the better he became."
Fifty Eagles players let loose Friday night. After a 22-18 win over Annapolis -- Northeast's first victory over the Panthers in school history -- the entire team lit up with emotion. They danced. They sang. They dumped water on each other.
And the coach, Mike Cotham? He went back to his office and crunched numbers.
Inspired by the latest win and a 4-3 record, Cotham spent more than a dozen hours last week -- including three immediately after Friday's game -- analyzing potential playoff scenarios.
"This is the most fun I've had in a while," Cotham said. "Usually at this time, I'm already focusing on who we have coming back next year and trying to figure out equipment. I like thinking about the postseason a lot better."
With Glen Burnie, Meade and Chesapeake left on the schedule, the Eagles could win the rest of their games. That would put them at 7-3, their best record in 20 years. But it wouldn't guarantee a trip to the postseason.
"What I've figured out," Cotham said, "is that we've got about a million different scenarios. We need some teams to win, some teams not to win. All I know for sure is that we still have to win out. Then we'll see what happens. It's just fun to think about."
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John Carroll at Spalding
Spalding Coach Mike Whittles said earlier this year that no matter how impressive his team's record, its season rested on two games: against Boys' Latin and John Carroll.
Last week Spalding lost the first of those, 14-7, to Boys' Latin. This week's game is a shot at a split. Spalding (5-1) won its first six games last year before dropping two consecutive conference games -- to Boys' Latin and John Carroll.
"This is the key stretch of our season," Whittles said. "We need to get something out of these two games; otherwise it could just be more of the same."
Spalding's defense, led by linebacker and coach's son Mike Whittles, has been stingy all year. The offense, though, has been sporadic, scoring 60 points one week, seven the next.
"We need to get more consistent," Coach Whittles said. "Because now is when we need to be playing our best."
-- ELI SASLOW