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Zebras sophomore quarterback Claude Johnson (6-0, 195) put on quite the display of both shiftiness and leg and arm strength Friday night in a 28-28 tie at Fayetteville.
"Oh, man he is going to be a player to watch," noted Fayetteville offensive lineman Colby Berna, one of the state's top juniors that Arkansas is recruiting. "He is unbelievable. I have never seen a sophomore like that. He is quick, can throw the ball, run – he's got the whole package."
Moments after finishing the game in Fayetteville, Johnson – who reminds some of former Fort Smith Northside quarterback Kodi Burns - was talking about how he would like to play his college ball in the same city.
"It's like I tell everybody," Johnson said, "I would love to play in Fayetteville and play for the Razorbacks. I would like to stay at home and have my family be able to see me play. They got no problem with me – I want to play there."
Johnson rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries and despite going just 2-of-12 passing for 25 yards, surely not one person left the stadium without being impressed with the strength and form he showed off.
He was 8-of-16 passing for 119 yards and ran for 28 yards in a 20-12 loss in the season opener to visiting Fort Smith Northside.
"I think he has got an explosive arm and he can really run the ball," Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding said. "He's just a sophomore, though, and people have got to remember he is going to make mistakes and do foolish things at times. But he is my quarterback and going to be for the next three years."
Johnson said he is not worried about Pine Bluff's recent struggles, just moving forward.
"We don't worry about what happened the last two years," Johnson said. "We are just worrying about what is happening now. We are going to be a better team than they are used to around here."
It sure appeared that way in the first half as Johnson led his team to four touchdowns in the first half.
Two of those scores came on scintillating Johnson runs of 38 and 13 yards while junior running back Martez Glass scored the other pair.
"We played really good in the first half," Jones said. "The offensive line blocked, the defense played good. We've just got to finish our games out – finish and play hard."
Bolding said his team is coming very close to turning the corner.
"Considering that these young men have only won one game in the last two years," Bolding said, "to get on the bus and go four hours and play well, I am very proud of that. But I am disappointed that we didn't do the things necessary in the second half to win the football game and I hope they are."
But he doesn't want the Zebras to be happy with the tie.
"I wanted to win the game," Bolding added. "I don't want to lose, I want to win and I want my kids to think that way. I guess we could have lost and it would have been worse, but it's about winning."
"He is," Bolding said. "He gets a little bit better every week, his mistakes are getting fewer and fewer each week."
Johnson said that is his mindset.
"I have to work on everything," Johnson said. "My passing, my running – I have got to work on everything and I will do that."
Pine Bluff faces another tough test on Friday when it travels to face Little Rock Central, the state's former No. 1 team who lost to visiting Texarkana 13-7 last weekend.
"Right now we need to work harder," Johnson said. "We've got the team, we've got the players. If we keep working hard, we will get there."