An­thony John­son’s Sig­na­ture Caps Out­stand­ing Ca­reer

PRAIRIE GROVE SE­NIOR SIGNS WITH HEN­DRIX

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS - By Mark Humphrey

PRAIRIE GROVE — With the stroke of a pen Prairie Grove se­nior An­thony John­son placed his sig­na­ture on a sto­ry­book high school foot­ball ca­reer filled with high­lights.

The lat­est of which was sign­ing a na­tional let­ter of in­tent to play col­lege foot­ball for Hen­drix Col­lege, of Con­way, on Mon­day, April 23.

John­son earned All-State and All-Con­fer­ence hon­ors, lead­ing the Tigers in rush­ing as a se­nior. His se­nior class of 2018 fin­ished with the most var­sity wins in school his­tory. As sopho­mores they con­trib­uted to a State Run­ner-up fin­ish, then as ju­niors were heav­ily in­volved in reach­ing the state semi­fi­nals, and as se­niors ad­vanced to the state quar­ter­fi­nals.

“The guy had a 10-yard-per carry av­er­age,” said Prairie Grove head coach Danny Ab­shier. “He was our lead­ing rusher. He’s one of the most ex­cit­ing play­ers we’ve ever had, de­fen­sively, be­cause he hits so hard and of­fen­sively to watch him run. He’s one of the most ex­cit­ing play­ers we’ve had in a long time.”

Of­fen­sive Fire­power

John­son’s re­li­a­bil­ity as a half­back il­lus­trated by one fum­ble in 167 car­ries show­cased through­out the sea­son. He rushed for 1,681 yards, gain­ing 10.1 yards per rush and ran for 21 touch­downs and a pair of 2-point con­ver­sions with a long carry of 70 yards.

“He’s su­per hard to tackle, it’s very tough for one per­son to get him down,” said Prairie Grove as­sis­tant coach John Elder. “I’m ex­cited for him to go on and play at the next level.”

The 5-9, 190 John­son also caught 13 passes for 178 yards with a long of 42 yards. His av­er­age catch went for 13.7 yards and he had 1 re­ceiv­ing touch­down.

“He’s big enough to run you over after he catches it,” Elder said. “He has good hands, he’s a skilled player.”

De­fen­sive Flex­i­bil­ity

John­son ex­em­pli­fies the type of ath­lete suited to play the hy­brid safety/line­backer po­si­tion in Prairie Grove’s 4-2-5 scheme ac­cord­ing to de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Craig Laird.

“He re­ally had the whole pack­age,” Laird said. “He had it all. He had the foot­ball IQ , he loved to hit, he could tackle, he could cover.”

Laird ex­plained a lot of times a player can run, but does not tackle well. Other play­ers can tackle, but don’t run well. Some play­ers are a lit­tle bit of both but don’t ex­cel at ei­ther skill be­cause they lack the foot­ball IQ and don’t fully com­pre­hend the game.

Op­po­nents feared John­son as a heavy hit­ter on de­fense. He was the Tigers’ sec­ond-lead­ing tack­ler with 26 so­los and 66 as­sists for 92 to­tal take­downs on the sea­son. John­son had 1 in­ter­cep­tion, 3 passes de­fensed and a force fum­ble.

Dur­ing spring prac­tice, Laird told the team, “This is the An­thony John­son po­si­tion.”

“This is the tough­est po­si­tion on the field de­fen­sively by the na­ture of our 4-2-5 de­fense,” Laird said. “You have to play. You’re put in a tough spot. You have to be back to cover passes and you have to run down­hill to stop the run.”

For lack of a bet­ter term, Laird said weak safety is what peo­ple call the po­si­tion.

“You’re not just an old school safety, you’re a line­backer,” Laird said. “This year, we were real for­tu­nate and real blessed to have him out there on de­fense as much as he was. You could tell when he wasn’t out there. Our de­fense dropped off a lit­tle bit when he wasn’t out there.”

“This year, we were real for­tu­nate and real blessed to have [An­thony John­son] out there on de­fense as much as he was. You could tell when he wasn’t out there. Our de­fense dropped off a lit­tle bit when he wasn’t out there.”

Craig Laird De­fen­sive Co­or­di­na­tor

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Prairie Grove se­nior An­thony John­son (cen­ter) signs a na­tional let­ter of in­tent to play col­lege foot­ball for Hen­drix Col­lege, of Con­way, on Mon­day, April 23. John­son was ac­com­pa­nied by his mother, An­drea Har­rell (right) and Prairie Grove head foot­ball...

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