"Electrifying" Johnson Shines At Jordan-Hare

Auburn commitment Kerryon Johnson had a monster day as Madison Academy finished off a three-peat with a 70-34 win over Dale County in the Class 3A state football championship game.

Auburn, Ala.--It was billed as a running backs matchup of Kerryon Johnson and Malik Miller from Madison Academy versus state record holder JaMarius Henderson from Dale County in the 3A title game Thursday morning at Jordan-Hare Stadium. While Henderson more than held his own with 204 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, the day belonged to Johnson.

Playing in front of Auburn coaches Rhett Lashlee, Tim Horton and J.B. Grimes on the sidelines on his future home field, Johnson had the game of his life with six total touchdowns in a 70-34 Madison Academy victory. It was the third consecutive state title for the Mustangs and Johnson was a big reason why.

Carrying the ball eight times for 178 yards and four touchdowns, the four-star back added a 66-yard touchdown reception and an interception return for a score to break the single-game championship record. Miller, a junior, added 127 yards on 15 carries and blocked two kicks, one which he returned for a touchdown, but this day it was all about Johnson.

“He’s an outstanding playmaker,” Madison Academy Coach Eric Cohu said after the game. “I had the privilege of coaching Jordan Matthews, who is lighting up the NFL as a rookie, and I think Kerryon is every bit as opportunistic as a playmaker. He knows how to take over a game. He’s electrifying and you saw that today. He makes big plays, he knows when we need a big play, and he rises to the occasion.”

With Henderson on the other side it was definitely a chance for a statement game for Johnson and his teammates. Sharing carries for much of the last three years with Miller, he hasn’t put up the numbers that others have, but Thursday it was his chance to shine.

“Obviously, if he’s making more plays than me then we’re not doing as well,” Johnson said. “Really it was simple for me. I had to run in a straight line. Half of the time I wasn’t even touched. When we’re blocking like that it makes my job easy. When you see a great player like that you know you have to rise up or he’s going to take over. He’s not going to hold back for us. Obviously, you just have to rise to the occasion.”

The first half was filled with big plays on both sides as a championship record 69 points were scored with Madison Academy taking a 42-27 lead into intermission. Not surprising it was a parade of stars for both teams that did much of the damage with Miller getting it started early. On the opening possession of the game the big back took the handoff and broke through the right side of the line for a 45-yard touchdown run.

Malik Miller races for the touchdown

Following runs of 14 and eight yards on its first two plays, Dale County decided to throw the football on play number three and it was the wrong choice. An interception by Emerson Brooks set Madison Academy up on its own 37-yard line. A few plays later it was Johnson’s first time to find paydirt as his rush over right tackle went for 56 yards and a touchdown to make it a two-touchdown lead for the Mustangs.

Dale County managed just one first down before punting the ball back to Madison Academy and the Mustangs wasted no time pushing the lead to 21-0 as Kishawn Matthews finished off a 79-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown scamper.

Henderson broke loose for a 47-yard run on the next possession for the Warriors to set up Trey McMillan’s two-yard touchdown run. On the board finally, Dale County needed a stop to get back in the game, but it wasn’t to be. Grinding out 40 yards on three carries, Miller moved the football into Dale County territory and Johnson finished things with a 25-yard run, the third score of the game for the Auburn commitment.

Continuing the scoring trend Dale County answered back with a Henderson one-yard score following a 63-yard drive. With the lead now 28-14 it only took Madison Academy one play to score as quarterback Blake Coward’s short pass towards the sideline to Johnson broke into the open field and it was smooth sailing 66 yards for the score.

An interception on the first play of the next possession for Dale County meant another shot for Johnson. Moving the ball deep into scoring position behind Blake Wimberly, Johnson got one touch on the drive and made it count with a 27-yard score for the 42-14 lead. A 66-yard touchdown drive for the Warriors was finished off with a nine-yard score by big Jeffrey Whatley.

Back within three touchdowns, Dale County finally forced a Madison Academy punt and got the ball back with just 41 seconds left. On second down the Warriors went to their bag of tricks as McMillan hit Hayden Friesen down the sidelines for 28 yards. He flipped the ball to Henderson on the hook-and-ladder and the speedy back rumbled to the three-yard line. Two plays later McMillan scored on the last play of the half to cut the lead to 42-27 for Madison County.

With the momentum and getting the ball in the second half things looked good for the Warriors, but it didn’t take long for that to change and again Johnson was at the center of things. On the first possession of the second half McMillan dropped back to pass on second down, but his throw went directly to Johnson over the middle. An easy 31-yard return later and it was ball game.

Now up 49-27, Madison Academy never looked back as the Mustanges eventually built the lead to 56-27 on a 53-yard Johnson run, his sixth and final score of the game.

The final nail in the coffin came on the next Dale County possession. Forced to punt, the Warriors didn’t touch Miller off the edge and he pounded the punt into the ground, scooped it up, and raced 35 yards for the score. Both teams would add a late touchdown in the highest-scoring championship game in history.

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