LITTLE ROCK - There were several great performances during the opening week of the high school football season in Arkansas, but perhaps no one was more electrifying than West Helena Central's versatile Jonathan Johnson.
Johnson (6-0, 170, 4.4) was simply sensational Friday night and showed he had SEC caliber speed in his team's 35-33 loss to Pulaski Academy in what was a rematch of last season's Class 5A title game.
The versatile prospect, who split time at wideout and quarterback, had 10 rushes for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns, caught 3 passes for 79 yards and completed 3-of-5 passing for another 15 yards in front of Arkansas assistant coach Mike Summers.
"He was simply amazing," noted West Helena cornerback Anterio Sloan, a recent decommit from Nebraska who is now looking at Kentucky and Mississippi State. "He showed tonight what we all know. If he gets a step on you, it is over. He and (tailback) Antonio (Hughes) are the fastest guys on this team and people just don't catch them."
That 200-plus all purpose yards didn't even include a dynamic 60-yard TD catch on an improvised running play.
That score was called back because of a extremely ill-advised cut block behind the play as Johnson was reaching he end zone.
"We practiced real hard and I know we should have won this game," Johnson said. "We left everything out there on the field in the second half, but made too many mistakes in the first half."
Johnson, who attended Arkansas camp this summer, was totally spent after a night when he brought his team back from a 27-7 deficit to a 27-27 tie.
His 63-yard run got it to within 35-33 with 5:05 left, but a two-point pass failed and the Bruins held on just as they did in last year's title game.
"We had a great talk at halftime and came back out and played as hard as we can," Johnson said. "This is so disappointing. It is never a good feeling to lose and certainly not when it is just a few points."
PulaskI Academy, which has a standout offensive lineman in Parker Mack (6-4, 305), was led by new quarterback Will Nicks' 409 yards passing and wideout Caleb Jones' 7 catches for 179 yards.
Although he has some academic work to catch up on, Johnson is being recruited by a couple of SEC teams and would love to play in that league.
"Arkansas and Ole Miss are recruiting me," Johnson said. "This is my last year, I am going to graduate and I want to make a great decision for my future.
"I think Arkansas is a very good program and I like their players," Johnson added. "I hope they and Ole Miss both offer me. I think I will be in the slot in college."
West Helena, led last season by Razorback signees Darius Winston and Turell Williams and quarterback Deondra Johnson, will play Marianna this Friday.
The Cougars, who opened last season with a win over Pulaski Academy, will try to do like the Bruins did in 2008 and win the rest of their games and eventually the crown.
"We lost some great players and big names, but we still have a lot of talent left on this team," Johnson said. "We think we can win the state."
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